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My long road to justice

My long road to justice


Fri Feb 13, 2015

by Sir James Mitchell

My triumph in the Privy Council in England on 18th December 2014 with my Appeal against Bias in the St Vincent Commission of Enquiry consolidates justice and democracy in these islands. Caribbean courts failed to recognize bias and shortcomings in our judicial procedure over the years, except in one instance — ordering retrial. My successful appeal has become Case Law in the Commonwealth and accessible around the world on the Internet as Case ID: JCPC2013/0067. I have also registered the judgment for circulation through our{{more}}

The Commission produced a report entitled “Possible criminal acts and offences by certain individuals,” sent it to the Director of Public Prosecutions, with me a prime target, without ever seeing or hearing me, or inviting a comment from me. Retroactive legislation was enacted with the aim of depriving me of legal costs.

Throughout the period of the enquiry, the services of the marina and shipyard were advertised regionally and internationally, even though labelled constantly by the new Government as a failed project.

The Enquiry centred on the Ottley Hall Marina and Shipyard, built during my administration, funded as Export Credit Guarantee by the Italian Government, with funds from a consortium of European banks, led by the German Bank West LB. The project aimed to stimulate yachting tourism and ship maintenance to help ease the strain with the pending loss of preference from the European Union under WTO rules on the vital banana industry.

The singular difficulty with the project was the denial of final payments to complete the ancillary facilities and which impacted on the parent shipyard in Italy.

I secured a 50 per cent debt relief from the Italian Government before I left office. The shipyard and Marina functioned while I was in office, has continued to generate millions, and is capable earning many more millions, if managed properly. All alone I fought this battle for 12 years. I remained determined to protect my name, my family’s legacy, my party’s reputation, and my country’s image. My tenacity never wavered. In the end, I secured a unanimous verdict from the Law Lords in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as follows:

“The Board will advise Her Majesty that the Appeal be allowed….the Respondent (Commissioner of Enquiry Judge Georges) should take no further part in the Commission…pay all costs before the Board and in the Courts below.”

An abiding truth has now been established that the longest serving Head of Government in the Caribbean did not get justice from nine Caribbean judges. Where is our justice without the Privy Council? My successful appeal to the JCPC, a right enshrined in the sanctity of our Constitution, now poses a challenge to all those who seek to jettison appeals to this Privy Council as a disdainful relic of colonialism. Thus have I won victory for all the people in these islands, redeeming justice and democracy, and in its wake, confidence in security of investment, a prerequisite for enhancing our quality of life? My victory permits Vincentians to pronounce that on my watch their country was justly governed.

I await response to my ill-afforded costs, as advised to Her Majesty.

My tilting towards justice affects no waning of my enthusiasm for political union among our islands. Union and justice are facets of the same coin. The Privy Council should only be removed by consent of the people in a referendum.