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New CCJ President to be honoured with special sitting

New CCJ President to be honoured with special sitting

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jul. 12, CMC – The new president of the Trinidad and Tobago based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Justice Adrian Saunders will be honoured on Friday, 13th in the first of two special sittings for the regional court.

Justice Adrian Saunders

Friday’s sitting will be held at the headquarters here , while the second sitting will take place in Saunders’ home country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on July 20.

The new President was installed at a ceremony in Montego Bay, Jamaica  last week.

The special sitting will be attended by members of the legal community and other organisations across the region.

On Friday evening the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers (CAJO) will host a fundraising dinner party to honour the new CCJ President, who is also chairman of the organisation.

Justice  Saunders, a native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, graduated from the University of the West Indies , Cave Hill Campus with a Bachelor of Laws degree   in 1975 and a Legal Education Certificate from the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad & Tobago in 1977.

In 2005,  Justice Saunders was among the first cohort of judges to join the CCJ bench before being elevated to President.

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Judge to hand down decision on request to strike out case against Opposition Leader

Judge to hand down decision on request to strike out case against Opposition Leader

BASSETERRE, St Kitts, July 13, CMC – A High Court judge will today, Friday, hand down his decision in the Dominica diplomatic passport case brought against Opposition Leader Dr Denzil Douglas by a private citizen.

Justice Trevor Ward’s decision is expected to be delivered at 1:30 p.m.

Opposition Leader Dr Denzil Douglas

Douglas’ lawyers, Anthony Astaphan SC, Delano Bart QC, Sylvester Anthony and Angelina Gracey Sookoo-Bobb, during a two-hour hearing last Friday, asked Justice Ward to strike out a claim by Cuthbert Mills that their client is not qualified to be the Parliamentary Representative for the constituency of St Christopher 6 because he has a Dominica diplomatic passport.

The team submitted a number of reasons why Mills’ claim ought to be struck out in its entirety or, in the alternative, certain paragraphs.

“Our reason for trying to strike out the entire claim is that under Section 36 (4) of the (St Kitts and Nevis) Constitution which allows a challenge to a member of the house who is duly elected but since then there is an allegation arose that challenges his qualification to remain the house, only allows for a single challenge to be brought and in the circumstances where a challenge is brought by a voter, the Attorney General can intervene, however there is no such provision where the Attorney General has first filed and so because of the very strict nature of the section 36 of the Constitution, there is no provision allowing for what is considered a second challenge, particularly given the way that Mr Mills has chosen to prosecute his case,” said Sookoo-Bobb.

The defence team contended that Mills failed to specifically point out what are the laws of Dominica that he alleges amount to Douglas being in allegiance to the Commonwealth of Dominica as a foreign power.

She also referred to Mills’ attachment, as evidence, of the front page of the St Kitts-Nevis Observer newspaper which he purported to have a copy of Douglas’ diplomatic passport.

“Mr Mills cannot exhibit that document. We argued that it is inadmissible,” said Sookoo-Bobb, who further pointed out that looking at the document there is absolutely no passport number tying his client to the diplomatic passport, and it is an incomplete document seemingly Photoshopped.

Mills also relied on Facebook postings which Douglas’ lawyers described as “hearsay”.

She said it was curious as to how Mills was able to obtain documents which are private and ought to be kept in the custody of the Supervisor of Elections.

Mills submitted a copy of Douglas’ Nomination Paper that was obtained without an order of the High Court in which the National Elections Act specifically states that those documents are to be kept in the private custody of the Supervisor of Elections unless there is a court order allowing disclosure.

“We also challenged the three public officers who are attached to the Immigration Department who went into the immigration system and provided Mr. Mills with Dr. Douglas’ alleged date of travel, the aircraft number that he travelled on and his alleged dominica diplomatic passport number. We thought that is a serious and obscene breach of Dr. Douglas’ right to privacy that public officials can use their positions to retrieve private information about Dr. Douglas and give that to an ordinary citizen for the purposes of bringing what we consider a politically-malicious claim against Dr. Douglas.

“The court should strike out these immediately and they ought not to be in this matter one day longer,” Sookoo said.

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Diplomatic passport case filed by private citizen - ruled abuse of process

Diplomatic passport case filed by private citizen – ruled abuse of process

BASSETERRE, St Kitts, Friday July 13, CMC – Opposition Leader Dr Denzil Douglas scored a legal victory on Friday when a High Court judge threw out a challenge filed by a private citizen to his right to sit in Parliament on the basis of his ownership of a Dominica diplomatic passport.

High Court Judge Trevor Ward ruled that the civil suit brought by Cuthbert Mills “was an abuse of the process”, since it had come after Attorney General Vincent Byron had already filed a similar claim.

Opposition Leader Dr Denzil Douglas celebrates after the ruling.

Mills had submitted a claim that Douglas is not qualified to be the Parliamentary Representative for the constituency of St Christopher 6 because he has a Dominica diplomatic passport. But during a two-hour hearing last Friday, Douglas’ lawyers, Anthony Astaphan SC, Delano Bart QC, Sylvester Anthony and Angelina Gracey Sookoo-Bobb asked the judge for the claim to be struck out.

Sookoo-Bobb told the media after the ruling that Justice Ward had agreed with the former prime minister’s legal team that Mills’ claim amounted to an abuse of the process of the court, having been filed one month after Byron’s claim.

The court ruled that under the constitution, Mills was not allowed to bring a second claim or to intervene.

The issue of cost has been reserved and submissions will be made as to whether or not Mills will pay Douglas’ cost and how much he should pay.

“Those submissions are to be filed by July 19, 2018,” said Sookoo-Bobb.

The case brought by the Attorney General is to be heard on September 28.

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CCJ strikes down mandatory death penalty in Barbados

CCJ strikes down mandatory death penalty in Barbados

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jun. 27, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has ruled that the mandatory death penalty in Barbados is unconstitutional.

The CCJ, which is the highest court for Barbados, made the ruling based on two unrelated death penalty cases from Barbados.

The cases, Jabari Sensimania Nervais v The Queen and Dwayne Omar Severin v The Queen, were consolidated because both appeals challenged the murder convictions of each of the men and the constitutionality of the mandatory death sentence for murder in Barbados.

The Court stated that a section of the Offences Against the Person Act was unconstitutional because it provided for a mandatory sentence of death.

In addition, both men had their appeals against their convictions dismissed.

Before examining the issues raised by the appeal, the regional court considered the state of the mandatory death penalty in Barbados for murder and found that it was indisputable that the nation, through its actions, had acknowledged that it had an obligation to remove such mandatory sentence under section 2 of the Offences against the Person Act.

The court also noted that Barbados had also given undertakings to the CCJ and the Inter American Court of Human Rights to rectify the mandatory sentence which was reflected in the Barbados Privy Council’s consistent commutation of the mandatory death penalty.

The CCJ held that section 11 of the Constitution, which gives the right to protection of the law, was enforceable.

The CCJ also found that the mandatory death penalty breached that right as it deprived a court of the opportunity to exercise the quintessential judicial function of tailoring the punishment to fit the crime.

The CCJ ordered that the appellants be expeditiously brought before the Supreme Court for resentencing.

As it relates to the cases  – Nervais was convicted of the murder of Jason Barton and the mandatory sentence of death by hanging was imposed on him.

It’s reported that Barton was selling from a booth when an alarm was raised that caused him, and the people gathered around, to run away. Gunshots were fired by a group of men and  . Barton was struck by a bullet and died.

Nervais was  later arrested and charged with Barton’s murder after he made oral statements and a written confession to a police officer.

The Court of Appeal in Barbados dismissed his appeal against conviction and affirmed his sentence.

In the other case,   Severin was convicted before a judge and jury for the murder of  Virgil Barton in the parish of St. Phillip.

The prosecution relied heavily on the evidence of  Barton’s nephew,  who testified that he saw two men shoot at the deceased.

During investigations,  the police conducted a search of   Severin’s residence and found a Taurus semi-automatic gun along with thirty-one 9mm rounds in his bedroom.

In his appeal to the CCJ,   Severin challenged the reliability of  his nephew’s evidence, the fairness of the informal identification parade, and the instructions given by the judge to the jury at the trial.

The appeals were heard together on January 25 by the Bench of the CCJ comprising the  CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron.

These are the last judgments that the Byron will deliver as CCJ President as he will demit office on July 4.

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Date set for CCJ referendum

Date set for CCJ referendum

by STAFF WRITER

JOHN’S, Antigua, Jun. 14, CMC – The government has announced that a refendum on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), will be held here on November 26.

Last month, the Gaston Browne led administration revealed plans to hold a referendum by year end on whether or not the island will adopt the Trinidad and Tobago based CCJ, as its final court. 

In announcing the date of the referendum, the government said an education programme, geared towards the process, will most likely intensify following carnival celebrations. 

The CCJ was established in 2001 to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court, but while many of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are signatories to the court’s Original jurisdiction, only Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica are members of its Appellate jurisdiction.

The CCJ also functions as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional integration movement.

In 2016, the government had hoped that the referendum would have been held by March 2017, however,   opposition legislators and others then warned that citizens were not fully educated on the issue.

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Deputy Prime Minister Reginald Austrie

Government minister wants debate on decriminalisation of marijuana

ROSEAU, Dominica, Jun 1, CMC – A senior government minister says he remains baffled as to why Dominicans are afraid of debating the issue of decriminalisation of marijuana whether it is or medicinal or other purposes.

“There’s a debate on marijuana…the whole world is debating marijuana, whether it is for medicinal purposes, whether it is for religious purposes. Are we going to remain in our little world and afraid to take about marijuana? It is a discussion we need to have,” Deputy Prime Minister Reginald Austrie said.

Deputy Prime Minister Reginald Austrie

Austrie, who is also the Minister of Agriculture, told a farmer’s consultation in Salisbury on the island’s west coast that Dominicans needed to discuss and debate the issue.

“In St. Vincent (and the Grenadines) they talking about it, CARICOM (Caribbean Community) has taken a decision to begin to talk about it. Why are we not talking about it more in Dominica?

“That’s the question I am asking. Are we prepared as a country to begin to talk about it. It is too much like a big stick within Dominica when the rest of the world is already talking about it,” Austrie said.

He told the consultation that Dominica “should start talking about it” adding “as to what we decide is another matter.

“But you can only make a decision after discussion. So let us start with the discussion and we will see where the discussion is going and if the discussion is let us end that talk about marijuana, we will end it. If the talk is we continue the discussion until some decisions are taken in that regard..”

“We live in a modern and enlighten world and maybe we may have a comparative advantage,” Austrie said, telling the consultation “I am not saying to use it, I am not saying to smoke it, I am not saying to sell it, but if we can grow it for medicinal purposes , the guys can come down here, they can buy it, we can package it, we can sell it, let us have that discussion on those subject matters,” Austrie said.

At least two CARICOM countries –Jamaica and Antigua and Barbuda- have advanced plans for the decriminalisation of marijuana for medicinal purposes in their respective countries.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said the initiative would be undertaken in a controlled environment.

“I want to make it abundantly clear that my government is not advocating the use of cannabis, we are against anything that is smoked.

“We do accept, though, on the other hand, that marijuana utilised in different forms has significant medicinal benefits and certainly we’ll move pretty quickly to ensure that we legalise the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes,” he said.

However, the executive director of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Dr James Hosepdales, urged regional countries to “proceed with an abundance of caution” when it come to the decriminalisation of marijuana.

Hospedales said there is much discussion on the decriminalisation issue and that there have been several times in history where populations and societies have gone very liberal with substances of abuse.

“The Americans are in the middle of a big opioid crisis and some many decades ago they had a huge problem with addiction and especially among white women,” he said.

“We in the Caribbean have a problem with marijuana and clogging up of the courts and the justice system and that’s understandable to try and reduce that side effect. I think though, in introducing these kinds of public policies, consideration has to be given to the full range of impact, he said, noting that if marijuana had to be decriminalised, there may be repercussions.

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same sex

Ban on same-sex weddings comes into effect

HAMILTON, Bermuda, Jun 1, CMC – A controversial new law which bans same-sex marriage in Bermuda but gives gay and straight couples the chance to enter into civil unions has come into effect.

The Domestic Partnership Act 2018 (DPA) became law Friday as marriage-equality campaigners await a ruling from the Supreme Court on their attempt to have part of the legislation struck out on constitutional grounds.

same sexThe DPA was approved by this British Overseas Territory’s parliament last December, sparking criticism from human rights activists and UK MPs, including Prime Minister Theresa May, who said she was “seriously disappointed”.

Opposition British Labour Party MP Chris Bryant, a former Overseas Territories Minister who forced a debate on the bill in the House of Commons in London, said the law reversal would make Britain a “laughing stock in the human rights field”.

Governor John Rankin gave the legislation royal assent on February 7 but Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown, who tabled the legislation, deferred its implementation until June 1 to give gay couples who had already made wedding plans extra time to tie the knot.

The DPA reversed a Supreme Court ruling in May last year — two months before the ruling One Bermuda Alliance lost the general election to the Progressive Labour Party — that paved the way for gay couples to get married in Bermuda and on ships registered in the island.

The Supreme Court decision came in a judgment by Justice Charles-Etta Simmons after Bermudian Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche, his Canadian partner, litigated against the Registrar-General for refusing to post their wedding banns.

Despite their landmark victory, Godwin and DeRoche chose to marry in Canada, but there were 10 same-sex marriages on the island up to the middle of February, plus four at sea on Bermuda-flagged ships.

Banns were also posted for two more maritime marriages.

The latest civil proceedings in Supreme Court were brought against Attorney- General Kathy Lynn Simmons by gay Bermudians Rod Ferguson and Maryellen Jackson and the charity OutBermuda.

The plaintiffs claimed the part of the DPA that reaffirmed that a marriage is void unless the parties are male and female was unconstitutional.

Chief Justice Ian Kawaley reserved judgment in the case until a later date.

Bermuda is the only country in the world to reverse its position on marriage equality. The Netherlands was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001.

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CCJ buildings - Trinidad

CCJ: Beware the politicians in (judges’) robes, the wolves in sheep’s clothing

Jamaica Observer

Editorial

May 24, 2018

CCJ buildings – Trinidad

As a country, we have never been as afflicted by intellectual schizophrenia as we are with the decision on whether to accept the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as our final court of appeal, replacing the United Kingdom Privy Council.

Jamaica is not the only one to be so afflicted, it would seem, because only four Caribbean Community (Caricom) nations have made the CCJ their final appellate court since it was established in 2001 and began operating in 2005.

The reason for this dual personality in Caricom countries is no doubt related to the fact that bright people who are for regional integration can see both the advantages and disadvantages of having a CCJ.

Indeed, it is instructive that the majority of the 15 member countries of Caricom have signed on to the original jurisdiction of the CCJ — which functions as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional bloc — while only Barbados, Belize, Dominica, and Guyana have signed on to the appellate jurisdiction.

This suggests to us that those who are hesitant to replace the UK Privy Council with the CCJ are not saying that regional judges are inferior. They trust them to interpret the revised treaty, which is critical to holding together the Caribbean Single Market and Economy.

The main stumbling block in the way of making the CCJ the final court of appeal is the overwhelming view that our politicians, most of them at any rate, are irrevocably in love with their own sense of power to intervene, adversely, we might add, in the running of local and regional institutions.

We in this space have in the past embraced the notion of a Caribbean court of appeal that might enrich regional jurisprudence and conceivably be less expensive to access than the London-based UK Privy Council.

But over the years we have grown more despondent as we see the propensity of the political ‘old boys’ club’ to rob our institutions of the impartiality that is paramount to public confidence in their integrity.

Until we are certain that we will have in place a legal superstructure that mirrors the confidence inspired by the Privy Council — untouchable by local politics — it would be foolhardy to make the CCJ our final appellate court.

No country which means itself well would go that route at this time. That is why we fully understand the sentiments expressed by Barbadian Prime Minister Freundel Stuart who has indicated his intention to pull the island out of the CCJ’s appellate jurisdiction if his Democratic Labour Party wins a third term in today’s general elections there.

“I’m not going to have Barbados disrespected by any politicians wearing robes. It is not going to happen,” he has declared.

We in this space have never lost sight of the collective wisdom of the Grenadian people who voted against the CCJ by a margin of 9,492 in favour and 12,434 against in a 2016 referendum, despite the fact that the leaders of government were in favour of the CCJ.

A second referendum on the CCJ is being now organised in Grenada. We would not be surprised if the results are the same as 2016.

 

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Wendy C Grenade

University lecturer commends ruling of CCJ

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, May 21, CMC –A senior lecturer at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) has welcomed the ruling of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) regarding the registration of Commonwealth citizens to be included in the voters list ahead of the May 24 general election here.

Wendy C Grenade
Wendy C Grenade

St. Lucian academic, Professor Eddy Ventose had challenged the decision of the electoral authorities here to deny him the opportunity to be registered even though he has been resident in the country for several years. The matter was heard during an unprecedented sitting of the Court, two Sundays ago.

In its ruling, the CCJ, which is Barbados’s final court, said that the “long standing policy of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission in relation to Commonwealth citizens to register as electors … is unlawful and ultra vires.

“The Court is satisfied that on the basis of judicial finding pronounced in this matter, which has not been appealed, the applicant has satisfied the necessary legal and regulatory conditions for registration as an elector,” the CCJ ruled, threatening to jail the Chief Electoral Officer, Angela Taylor, if she failed to obey the ruling.

Dr. Wendy C Grenade, a senior lecturer in Political Science in the Department of Government, Sociology, Social Work and Psychology, said the “CCJ must be commended for acting with a sense of urgency in the Ventose case.

“Its responsiveness in dispensing justice to Professor Ventose and by extension to other Commonwealth Caribbean citizens in Barbados, must be applauded. The CCJ also promoted transparency in its deliberations by utilising technology to livestream the court session.

“This was a sophisticated act of techno-democracy, where the CCJ bridged the divide between itself and ordinary Caribbean people. The virtual court demystified lofty judicial proceedings. This was quite refreshing and reassuring, particularly for some who question the efficacy of the CCJ,” she said.

The lecturer said that the rule of law is a central pillar of any well-functioning democracy and that when state officials ignore or seek to frustrate rulings of the court, justice is denied and democratic norms are ruptured.

“The CCJ must be commended for demonstrating its judicial independence by protecting the rights of Commonwealth Caribbean citizens from the arbitrary exercise of power by a Caribbean state.

“The CCJ’s warning that Barbados’ Chief Electoral Officer will be imprisoned and/or fined if she does not comply with its ruling, sends a strong signal of its seriousness of purpose and its intention to apply the full extent of the law to ensure justice for Caribbean citizens. It also demonstrates that the state is not above the law and that state officials can be held accountable for their actions.”

She said that the Ventose case is also significant because it demonstrates the importance of judicial review as a critical means through which citizens can claim legal redress against laws or policies that infringe on their rights.

“Judicial review is a powerful weapon available to citizens in their battle for rights and justice. One can argue that, given the remoteness of the Privy Council and the relatively high costs associated with taking matters to the UK-based court, judicial review has not been a norm in the Caribbean’s legal praxis.

“However, the proximity of the CCJ to the Caribbean’s reality, provides impetus for increased citizen activism through judicial review. Professor Ventose must be complimented for channelling his legal skill to an activist cause,” she added.

The lecturer said that beyond the legal question, a major implication of the Ventose judgement is that Caribbean people who reside in other Caribbean territories must feel a sense of belonging to the Caribbean sister state where they live, work and pay taxes.

“The right to vote, as contentious as it may be, is one of the most cherished democratic rights, particularly for people whose history has been replete with oppression and denial of suffrage. The CCJ’s judgement in this case has affirmed the enfranchisement of the Caribbean “other”.

“Fifty odd years after independence, it is encouraging that an indigenous Caribbean Court can do so. This renews hope in the promise of regionalism.

“The ruling in this case is a victory not only for Commonwealth Caribbean citizens in Barbados but for Caribbean jurisprudence, Caribbean democracy and regional integration. It reinforces the urgency for other CARICOM countries to put systems in place to accede to the CCJ in its appellate jurisdiction.’ To date, only Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana have done so, although, except for the Bahamas, Haiti and Montserrat, all other CARICOM countries are members of the CCJ in its original jurisdiction.

The Grenada-born lecturer said that importantly, “this landmark judgement is most timely for Grenada as that country seeks to re-open the conversation on another referendum to facilitate Grenada’s accession to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ, replacing the UK-based Privy Council as Grenada’s highest Court of Appeal”.

She said the case “highlights several benefits of the CCJ, which should be the catalyst of a YES campaign going forward”.

http://cananewsonline.com/main/barbados-elections-university-lecturer-commends-ruling-of-ccj/?utm_campaign=twitter&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitter

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CCJ rules St Lucian academic should be registered to vote in B’dos elections

CCJ rules St Lucian academic should be registered to vote in B’dos elections

By CMC

 

Eddy Ventose

(CMC) — The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Sunday ruled that a St Lucian-born academic should be registered as an elector to cast a ballot in the May 24 general elections in Barbados and warned the Chief Elections Officer that failure to carry out the order by midday tomorrow could land her in jail for contempt of court or be fined.

In an unprecedented hearing, the CCJ, which is the Barbados final court, said that Eddy Ventose, a professor of law at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), had satisfied “the necessary legal and regulatory conditions for registration as an elector”.

In the ruling of the five-member panel of judges, read out by the CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron, the court told Angela Taylor, the Chief Electoral Officer “shall register or cause the applicant to be registered as an elector before 12 noon on Monday, the 14th day of May, 2018”.

Dennis said that if Taylor ‘does not comply with the order, you may be held to be in contempt of court and you may be imprisoned and or fined”.

Barbadians go to the polls on May 24 to elect a new government with the contest expected to be between the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) headed by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and the main opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) headed by Mia Mottley, who is seeking to become the first woman head of government in this Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.

Election day workers, including police, will cast their ballots on May 17.

Political observers had said that the matter before the CCJ, which is Barbados’ highest court, has implications not only for the appellant but also for Commonwealth citizens, living in Barbados, who want to be registered to vote in the general elections.

Ventose, who has lived in Barbados for several years, sought to be included on the Barbados electoral register. He had alleged that under the prevailing laws he is qualified and entitled to be registered.

The Court of Appeal last week ruled that Ventose was entitled to be registered to vote but stopped short of compelling the chief electoral officer to do so, instead, ordering the chief electoral officer to determine Professor Ventose’s claim within 24 hours.

Ventose had asked the CCJ to declare that his name should be on the final voters’ list ahead of its publication this week.

The CCJ said that the request for appeal came late Friday and it responded by scheduling the hearing for Sunday.

Dennis said the application for special leave to appeal filed on Friday had been granted as well as the application “to treat this hearing as an urgent matter.

“The application for special leave to appeal is being treated as the substantive hearing of the appeal,” he said, adding “the appeal is allowed and the orders of the Court of Appeal are set aside”.

Dennis said that the CCJ is satisfied that the applicant has locus standi…under the Administrative Justice Act …to bring judicial review application under Section three of the act. “The long standing policy of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission in relation to Commonwealth citizens to register as electors… is unlawful and ultra vires.

“The court is satisfied that on the basis of judicial finding pronounced in this matter, which has not been appealed, the applicant has satisfied the necessary legal and regulatory conditions for registration as an elector,” Dennis said.

The costs for this court and the court below were awarded to the appellant.

 

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