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Exeter advised to exhaust alternative forms of redress

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In seeking to have the revocation of his firearm licence overturned, Benjamin Exeter must first exhaust alternative forms of redress before applying to the court for judicial review.

This was the decision of Justice Brian Cottle, who, in a judgement handed down on February 15, said Section 13 of the Firearms Act, CAP 386 as amended allows a person aggrieved by a revocation of his firearm licence to appeal in writing to the Minister and thereafter to the Cabinet, if not satisfied by the response of the Minister.{{more}}

Exeter, who was the candidate of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in the Central Leeward constituency in the December 2015 general elections, had approached the court seeking leave for an order of judicial review of the revocation of his firearm licence and for an order compelling the Commissioner of Police to immediately return his firearm and licence and 50 rounds of ammunition.

On December 29, 2015, Exeter was present at a protest outside of the House of Assembly while the new Parliament was being sworn in. He had in his possession a firearm, for which he held a licence. As events unfolded, Exeter was arrested by the police and his weapon seized.

The following day, he received, from Godfred Pompey, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security and chairperson of the Firearms Licensing Board, a letter revoking his firearm licence with immediate effect.

Exeter contended that he was given no reason for the revocation of the licence, nor was he given an opportunity to be heard before the decision was taken.

Cottle, in his judgement, said the only issue that was of concern to the court was whether any alternative remedy to judicial review existed and if so why was it thought that judicial review proceedings were the most appropriate way to seek address.

In his application, Exeter, however, said although one could appeal to Cabinet, he felt judicial review was more appropriate, as “what is in question is the exercise of executive authority, which could only be corrected by judicial intervention.

“These circumstances are exceptional, as there could be no effective remedy by an appeal to the Cabinet, as it does not have the authority to correct errors of law. To appeal to the Cabinet and/or other Tribunal would render the appeal nugatory.”

Emery Robertson, counsel for Exeter, said there has been “no justice whatsoever” in Exeter’s case and there were several breaches of natural justice, in that Exeter was never given a hearing.

Cottle, however, said Robertson was unable to explain to the court why the “mere exercise of executive authority can only be corrected by judicial intervention.”

“The judicial review is a discretionary remedy. In the present case where no good reasons are advanced for failing to pursue the alternative forms of redress and absent any exceptional circumstances I decline to grant leave to apply for judicial review. The applicant must first exhaust the alternative forms of redress and if he is still not satisfied he may then reapply for leave,” the judgement said.

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