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Application to throw out petitions takes unexpected turn

Application to throw out petitions takes unexpected turn


Justice Brian Cottle has reserved judgement on the new application made by the Government to throw out the two petitions filed by the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in relation to the December 2015 general elections.

During his summation last Thursday, Cottle told the court that he believes it is his duty to write his judgement, because of the public interest the matter has generated.

“I do not propose to give you a summary decision today. I think it is the sort of thing I am going to have to write something on,” he said.{{more}}

“The public is interested and they would want to understand why the court comes to any position that the court comes to… I don’t want to write it. I would prefer to enjoy my carnival, but I think that I must write it and I would do so as quickly as I can.”

Cottle told the court that he will put aside his other matters to complete this judgement.

When lawyers for the defendants had initially filed an application to strike out the petitions, Cottle ruled on April 4 that it would be premature to do so at that time, but said that if lawyers for the Government apply for the petitions to be struck out when the petitions were argued before the High Court, they were bound to succeed.

However, the case took an unexpected turn last Thursday, when lawyer for the petitioners Stanley ‘Stalky’ John QC pointed out that the lawyers for the Government have filed new motions to strike out the petitions, when in fact, the first notice of the application, which the judge said he had no jurisdiction to hear, still subsists on the record.

“And we raised this, because what we say, this is an abuse of the process of the court for them to vex the petitioners, as it were, with two sets of proceedings dealing with the same thing.”

The Queen’s Counsel told reporters that while he is confident that the court would accept his submissions, he is not sure it will rule in his favour.

“I think the submissions are cogent, coherent and very relevant and they elucidate for the court the issues which it is required to take into consideration,” he added.

John said the reason the petitioners are dealing with preliminary points is because of the technical points that were raised.

“You’d recall when the matter was being heard that counsel for the other side was at pains to try and explain to the judge that it is simply a matter of a name not being in a particular part of the document why in fact the petition should be thrown out.

“So this is all about technicality and the technicality in election petition proceedings are crucial and it is improper for them to have applications which we have gone in there and dealt with and the judge had pronounced on and for them, without dealing with those fresh applications against us on the same points.”

John added that the matter of having two live applications is something that the judge has to get past and that the other side has not assisted the judge in relation to that.

“These are matters we will revisit when the judge has pronounced on the application,” he said.

However, in his presentation to the court, senior counsel Anthony Astaphan said, based on Cottle’s ruling in April, he did not understand the earlier application to still be live before the court and that an application in chambers cannot be brought into open court. He said they must now come with a new process.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, lawyers for the Government Astaphan and Grahame Bollers, both expressed confidence in the ruling that is to come.

Astaphan told reporters that he is very happy with his arguments, but could not predict the judgement.

Bollers added, “The judge has reserved his decision and we’ll await his decision, but we are confident that we’re going to succeed.”

However, Richard Williams, another defence lawyer, said he would assume that the matter would end up in the court of appeal – a prediction that had also been made by QC John earlier in the case.

“Let us wait and see what the judge says. I have had enough experience in the practice of law to know that you could never tell exactly what a judge is going to do. Sometimes, you go to court, you feel 100 per cent sure and you end up not being successful, “ said Williams.

President of the New Democratic Party (NDP) Arnhim Eustace said he was pleased with John’s presentation in court, adding that based on John’s case, he is confident that the NDP would do well in the matter.(AS)