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Sir James Mitchell wins appeal at Privy Council

Sir James Mitchell wins appeal at Privy Council


The London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has ruled in favour of Sir James Mitchell in an appeal he brought against Commissioner of the Ottley Hall Commission of Inquiry Ephraim Georges.

The Privy Council said, in its judgement delivered on December 18, 2014, that there is a “real possibility”{{more}} of bias on the part of Georges. They also ruled that Georges should take no further part in the Inquiry and that Mitchell’s costs be paid.

“The extracts from the Interim Report set out above strongly support the conclusion that, having regard to the context and all the surrounding circumstances, the fair-minded observer would conclude that there is a real possibility that the respondent had made up his mind by the date of the Interim Report that the appellant was at the heart of the wrongdoing which led to the Project and its collapse and would not be willing to change his mind, so that his final report would not be impartial,” the judgement said.

The Board, consisting of Justices Lady Hale, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Sumption and Lord Hughes, have asked the parties to make written submissions on the appropriate form of order and on costs within 21 days of the judgement being handed down.

“The provisional view of the Board is that, in addition to an order that the appeal be allowed, the only other order which it would be appropriate to make (apart from costs) is a direction that the respondent should take no further part in the Commission. As to costs, it is the provisional view of the Board that the respondent should pay the appellant’s costs before the Board and in the courts below.”

The Ottley Hall Inquiry was set up in 2003 to inquire into the reason or reasons for the failure of the project and the person or persons responsible and/or the degree of responsibility if any for that failure.

The Inquiry came to a standstill in 2007, when Georges issued an interim report and called on Sir James to appear before the Commission as a witness.

Mitchell, who was Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines from 1984 to 2000, had first applied to the High Court for judicial review of the interim report issued by Georges, which contained adverse findings about him. The High Court dismissed his application and when Sir James appealed, the East Caribbean Court of Appeal upheld the ruling of the High Court judge.

Sir James had appealed to the Privy Council, claiming apparent bias and procedural unfairness by the Commissioner. His case was heard on 17 November 2014.

He was represented at the Privy Council by Ramesh Maharaj and his daughter Louise Mitchell-Joseph.