The CCJ Corner is an initiative of the Caribbean Court of Justice geared towards educating and informing the public of the court’s decisions by way of pithy, dynamic and easily understood case summaries. The summaries are written by students of the law schools throughout the region including students of the Norman Manley Law School. The Litigator will, from today, share those summaries.
CCJ Dismisses Academic Appeal
By Joanne Flemming
Norman Manley Law School
Ya’Axchè Conservation Trust v Chief Forrest Officer, The Attorney General, Belize Hydroelectrical Development and Management Company Limited  CCJ 14 (AJ)
The overriding need to preserve and protect the diverse ecosystems situated within the Bladen Branch Nature Reserve in Belize, fuelled the Ya’Axchè Conservation Trust’s call for the Court to re-examine the decision of the Court of Appeal of Belize.
The Court of Appeal held that the Administrator under the National Parks Systems Act could issue a permit to the Belize Hydroelectrical Development and Management Company Limited to conduct hydro-electric studies within the reserve. Ya’Axchè Conservation Trust therefore contended that the Court of Appeal wrongly interpreted the powers of the Administrator since the object of the Act was to protect the natural reserve and preserve its undisturbed state.
The Ya’Axchè Conservation Trust, however, faced an obstacle of whether by the time the case is presented before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) there would be any existing issue for the Court to determine. The matter concerning the validity of the annual permit would by then only be in theory, because the permit would have been exhausted and there would be no dispute to be resolved.
The CCJ was therefore invited to analyse the circumstances in which academic appeals could be heard.
The Court noted that although there is no rule barring a matter where there is no live issue to be heard, it must still exercise caution in its discretion to entertain such appeals.
It was therefore held that the Conservation Trust presented a compelling case that raised issues in public law. The Court also reasoned that it was in the public interest to hear such an appeal for it involved the Administrator’s approval of conduct of activities considered forbidden within a natural reserve.
The Conservation Trust was however unsuccessful in persuading the CCJ that there was an arguable case justifying a grant of special leave to appeal.
The CCJ agreed with the Court of Appeal that the grant of the permit was lawful for the power afforded to the Administrator under the Act was sensitive to the need to protect the natural reserve. Unconvinced that a different conclusion to the Court of Appeal would occur if the appeal was granted, the CCJ refused the application for special leave.
This summary is intended to assist the Caribbean public in learning more about the work of the CCJ. It is not a formal document of the Court. The judgment of the Court is the only authoritative document and may be found here.