Law in the News ( February 2 – 8)

A weekly digest of legal news under the following headings:-

Decided Cases

Before the Courts

Debated Legislation/Bills

Developments in the profession

Law and Society

Opinion

Beyond our shores

 Decided Cases

Jamaica’s Constitutional Court rules in favour of Williams

The Constitutional Court has ruled that leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Andrew Holness, was wrong when he used pre-signed, undated, resignation letters to remove two Opposition Senators from the Upper House. The question is now being debated whether the two senators who were removed by Holness can simply take up their seats at any time since their removal was deemed null and void. Holness himself has expressed regret over what transpired.

Here is a copy of the decision: Judgment – Daye, McDonald-Bishop, Batts

Appeal Court discharges St Kitts-Nevis boundaries injunction

The Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal sitting in St Lucia on Thursday afternoon handed down its ruling in the boundaries change challenge by the opposition parties in St Kitts and Nevis and discharged the injunction granted earlier preventing the adoption of new electoral boundaries.

Belize Supreme Court declines to enforce arbitration award

The former administration of Prime Minister Said Musa should have gone to the House of Representatives for approval of a settlement agreement and loan note guaranteeing BZ$39 million in funds to the Belize Bank Limited on behalf of the Belize Healthcare Partners Trust, which bought out the assets owned by the Government of Universal Health Services (UHS) in 2007 and 2008.

LIME to pay Digicel $1.5 billion

Telecommunication company LIME is to pay more than $1.5 billion to its competitor Digicel (Jamaica ) Limited for wrongly withholding money due for calls from LIME’s fixed-line customers to Digicel mobile phones.

 Before the courts

Privy Council to rule on death sentences for two Trinidadian murderers

Seven British judges will consider whether two convicted murderers from Trinidad should have their death penalty sentences lifted by the privy council.

The test case, starting on Wednesday, will raise the question of whether a court in London has legal authority to vary a hanging order imposed by judges in the Caribbean.

JPS to appeal OUR rate determination

POWER utility provider, Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), yesterday announced plans to appeal the rate determination handed down by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) a month ago. The company will not appeal the rate reduction on consumer bills but rather a series of issues related to foreign exchange losses and its return on equity.

Ashcroft Alliance and Fortis ask CCJ for BTL and BEL

Belizean attorneys Eamon Courtenay, SC, Denys Barrow, SC, and his daughter Naima Barrow traveled to Trinidad recently for the conclusion of the hearing by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) into the nationalization of two utility companies – Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) and Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) – in a landmark case for the region emanating from 6 consolidated claims filed by the Ashcroft Alliance, Fortis International and the Government of Belize.

OECS to tighten regulations in ICT sector

Market competition within the information and communication technology (ICT) sector was discussed at the 60th meeting of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Authority held on Wednesday.

High Court challenge to presidential term limit

In Guyana, Cedric Richardson, an ordinary citizen filed a motion in the High Court seeking to have the two term presidential limit removed which he challenged as being unconstitutional.

 Debated Legislation/Bills

Jamaican Senate passes law decriminalizing ganja

A small group from the Rastafarian community watched with keen interest and waited patiently yesterday as the Senate debated for nearly five hours the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act, 2015, which was later passed with five amendments. In related news regulations for automatically removing criminal record for possession and smoking of small quantities of ganja should be ready this week.

One of the more interesting questions that emerged during the debate in the Senate was how to define a rastafarian.

New Bill in Jamaica codifies ministerial power to grant electricity licences

A new bill tabled in Parliament in the final week of January, titled ‘The Electricity Act 2015’, is intended to clarify ministerial powers over the granting of exclusive or non-exclusive licences for the distribution of power supplies. The bill is a response to a recent rulings of the Jamaican courts concerning the grant of electricity licences.

Bill to empower Auditor General of Jamaica to transfer properties before House

A Bill to empower the Administrator General’s Department to transfer properties to secondary beneficiaries as long as they are able to prove their relationship to the deceased owner is now before the Houses of Parliament.

Committee considers changes to Antigua defamation Bill

In Antigua, the Committee which has been set up to review the Criminal Defamation Bill before it goes to Parliament will be considering a number of recommendations made by attorneys, legal draftspersons and others. Among the recommendations is a reduction in the limitation period to bring an action for defamation from three to two years.

 Developments in the profession

Patrick Robinson sworn in as ICJ judge

Jamaican jurist Patrick Robinson was on Friday sworn in as a judge on the International Court of Justice (ICJ), to serve for a nine-year period. Judge Robinson is the only Jamaican and the second Caribbean person to serve on the ICJ in its 70-year history.

 JURIST project to reduce High Court matters

The number of civil cases that are labelled as “backlog” in the High Court are expected to drastically reduce, as a result of a special project that will implemented in Grenada and five others islands (Jamaica, Barbados, Belize, Guyana, and another OECS country) in the coming months. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), through the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project in collaboration with the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), is embarking on a delay and backlog reduction pilot project for the Supreme Court of Grenada.

 Law and Society

 QC criticises judges ban on jurors

Queen’s Counsel Dane Hamilton said Justice Albert Redhead overreacted when he decided to ban for a lifetime 10 jurors who rendered a verdict with which he (Justice Redhead) disagreed. Hamilton said while one may disagree with outcome of the sex case involving an 18-year-old male and a 13-year-old girl, the case was done according to the legal requirements, as the accused was judged by his peers.

St Kitts Nevis Bar Association Condemns Attack on Court Judges

The St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association decries a smear campaign launched against the OECS Court of Appeal following recent rulings in a political case. Last week the Appellate Court convened to hear the Opposition’s appeal of a discharged injunction in the lingering boundary change saga. The CoA imposed an interim injunction against election officials barring them from acting on a January 16 boundary change proclamation until the matter could be properly heard.

Arlene Harrison-Henry – the woman behind the law

The Jamaica Gleaner profiles Arlene Harrison-Henry the country’s new Public Defender.

Restorative Justice Week launched in Jamaica

THE MINISTRY of Justice on Sunday launched its Restorative Justice Week 2015 with a national service of thanksgiving at the Church of God in Jamaica on Chapelton Road, in May Pen, Clarendon. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry spoke with the Jamaica Gleaner after the launch of the week about the programme. The Minister of Justice announced that legislation is being pursued to facilitate the formal recognition of restorative justice in the criminal justice system.

CCJ President says Shanique Myrie v Barbados was the main highlight of the Court’s first decade

The case involving Jamaican Shanique Myrie is being branded as the highlight of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

Concern expressed over actions of Senior Resident Magistrate in contempt matter

The Jamaica Police Federation expressed grave concern over the legality and propriety of the actions of Senior Resident Magistrate Andrea Thomas for ordering a female corporal to be placed in custody at the holding area of Brown’s Town Resident Magistrates Court for contempt. The female corporal was placed in custody with 3 male prisoners where one allegedly groped her.

 Opinion

 The CCJ Debate In Jamaica

This week Ashley-Ann Foster, in her column Tear down that CCJ wall, argues that the country has “already invested heavily in the establishment of the CCJ, which is a fully functioning court of international standards. It is high time that Jamaica put the development of our people and region before our politics.” Joseph Richards II counters that the court is not a priority for the average man as there are more important issues to address. Foster addresses that argument in this response.

Shena Stubbs-Gibson tracks the journey of the three Bills before the parliament.

Exploring religion and discrimination in the workplace

Kara Je Kellman, a student at the Hugh Wooding Law School discusses religion and discrimination in the workplace in the context of Trinidad and Tobago. She looks at the circumstances in which discrimination may arise with regard to both employers and employees based on the Equal Opportunities Act and the Constitution.

 Beyond Our Shores

Canadian Supreme Court strikes down ban on doctor assisted suicide

Canada’s highest court struck down a ban on doctor-assisted suicide for mentally competent patients with terminal illnesses Friday, declaring that outlawing that option deprives dying people of their dignity and autonomy. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision reverses its own decision two decades ago and gives Parliament and provincial legislators a year to draft new legislation that recognizes the right of consenting adults who are enduring intolerable suffering to seek medical help ending their lives. The current ban on doctor-assisted suicide stands until then.

The judgment can be accessed here.

US-UK surveilance regime was unlawful ‘for seven years’

The regime that governs the sharing between Britain and the US of electronic communications intercepted in bulk was unlawful until last year, a secretive UK tribunal has ruled.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) declared on Friday that regulations covering access by Britain’s GCHQ to emails and phone records intercepted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) breached human rights law.

An attempt to stake a claim to an airless desert

THE law, you might think, is quite clear. The Outer Space Treaty, signed in 1967 by America, among others, says that the Moon “is not subject to national appropriation”. But, as any creative lawyer will tell you, the fees are in the loopholes. And a loophole is what Bigelow Aerospace’s lawyers believe they have found. Appropriation and ownership are not the same as exploitation. No one, for example, owns the oceans, but many exploit them.

UK allows in vitro fertilization for 3-person babies

In the United Kingdom, Parliament voted in favour of allowing the use of in vitro fertilization technique using DNA from three people. England becomes the first country in the world to allow this. While this technique could arguably prevent certain mitochondrial diseases, it also raises significant ethical issues and as such this law is fiercely opposed by Catholic and Anglican church leaders.

Argentine prosecutor found dead

Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, was found dead after he drafted an indictment seeking the arrest of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. The prosecutor accused Fernandez of covering up Iran’s role in the 1994 terrorist attack in Buenos Aires. (find link)

Strauss-Khan on trial

Former International Monetary Fund(IMF) Chief Dominique Strauss – Kahn went on trial last Monday to face charges of aggravated pimping and involvement in a prostitution ring operating out of luxury hotels. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $1.7 million(US) fine.

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