Two bajan lawyers say they are flabbergasted by CCJ’s latest ruling
A prominent Barbadian Queen’s Counsel has strongly advised other countries that have not joined on to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to stay away from the regional court.
Vernon Smith today advised Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries not to follow the lead of Barbados, Guyana and Belize in making the CCJ their final court of appeal.
And while he was not as candid, fellow Queen’s Counsel Hal Gollop admitted to having reservations about Barbados’ highest court.
Smith and Gollop were prompted to express their concerns about the Trinidad-based court following yesterday’s CCJ ruling in a land dispute in which the two senior attorneys, along with Steve Gollop, represented land developer Stanton Gittens – a decision they considered unjust.
“It costs the Government something like over US$10 million a year for that court, and my advice is that none of the other islands should join it,” an upset Smith told Barbados TODAY in an interview at which Gollop was also present.
“I don’t think any other Caribbean country, from [the court’s] performance up to now, particularly since the retirement of [first CCJ president] Justice [Michael] de la Bastide, should join it. Justice de la Bastide was a leading light in the whole justice system in the Caribbean.”
The attorneys, representing Gittens, had applied to the CCJ for special leave to appeal two earlier decisions of the High Court and the Court of Appeal in Barbados, which went in favour of Glenfield and Patsena Suttle who had agreed to sell land to Gittens so he could develop it and then reconvey it to them.
In dismissing the application, the CCJ explained that “the parties to this Barbadian matter entered into a contract to buy and sell a parcel of land identified on a proposed sub-division plan, but did not attach any plan”.
It went on to say that the resulting issue was that the purchaser, an experienced land developer, sought the CCJ’s appellate jurisdiction to order the Suttles, an elderly couple, to honour their obligations under the contract relying on one plan while the vendors insisted they agreed to another.
However, Gollop recalled that towards the end of yesterday’s sitting of the CCJ, he had intervened to tell the court that he considered its decision to be “wholly absurb”, given his client’s right of appeal.
The two senior attorneys also contend that if the CCJ had taken their submissions into consideration it would not have come to its conclusion.
They say the trial judge erred in finding that permission was granted to the Suttles to sub-divide the land into 13 lots since the couple’s plan was only “an application” and “not an approved plan” by the Chief Town Planner. They further contend that the plan was not one for which permission had been granted.
Therefore, the Suttles’ plan could not be referrable to the executed agreement because that plan comprised 13 lots compared to the 18 specified under the executed agreement.
The lawyers for Gittens are also disappointed that if, as the court found, there was no agreement between the Suttles and their client, then he should have been given back at least his deposit, a matter which the trial judge had said was be raised at a later date.
Upset about the decision, Smith said it was not the first occasion he had problems with the regional court, adding that it paid no regard to the legal team’s submissions in reaching its decision to dismiss the application.
Both he and Gollop told Barbados TODAY that up to this afternoon when the interview was conducted, the CCJ had not communicated its decision to them even though it published a media release on the matter.
They insisted that the normal practice for any court was to first inform counsel involved in a case of a decision before making it public.
Gollop said the court had promised to provide the team with its judgment and its reasons.
“So counsel were flabbergasted when counsel found out that an organ of the Caribbean Court of Justice has made a media release of the decision and its reasons, which to this day have not been communicated to counsel,” he said.
Further addressing the court’s approach, Smith described as very irregular and improper the omission of his name from the media release which the CCJ distributed, while Gollop felt that reference to him as Hal Gollop, omitting his QC title, was an insult.
Both attorneys said the local courts did not treat senior counsel in such a way and they called on the CCJ to make a public apology to them and Barbadians.