Vickie Locker challenges the Deputy Governor’s Election Guidelines so she can contest the General Elections – Nov 18

by B. Roach

Vickie ‘Storm’ Locker

On June 23, 2017 Vickie Stevenson had been serving on probation as a prison officer when about two years ago in June 2015 she filed sexual harassment complaints with the Governor against the top officials of HM Prison where she worked in Brades. (https://www.themontserratreporter.com/she-is-back-to-work-after-two-years-but-no-word-on-actions-from-complaint/

That matter and other reports saw a social commentator write in these columns: “…So that when Her Majesty’s Prison, Montserrat, a place of custodial protection and correction is attracting a reputation of ill repute and sexual perversion, social decay is plastered everywhere for all to see…”

“After enduring further harassment and victimization, enquiries as to her status as she continued to receive a salary, no information as to disciplinary charges brought against her, ridicule of the police for bringing her before the judge on charges that should have not passed reported stage, she is finally still in the employ of GoM she reports, as a senior clerical officer in the Ministry of Housing beginning just about two weeks ago.”

Today, still on the job in the Ministry of Housing, Vickie wants to contest the popularly contested 2019 General Elections but is prohibited from doing so without having to resign her employment in the Public Service.

It was this desire that caused her attorney Warren Cassell to file an application on October 7, 2019 in the High Court by way of originating motion seeking constitutional relief (to include a declaration) under section 20 of the Montserrat Constitution Order 2010 (“the Constitution”) with respect to the infringement or likely infringement of the Applicant’ s fundamental rights and freedoms as guaranteed by sections 13(1) and 14(1) of the Constitution.

Justice Morley had postponed the hearing of the application which named the Attorney General and the Deputy Governor, Lyndell Simpson for a response from the Attorney General, and which had also asked for interim relief as follows:

1. An Order that the Defendants or either of them take no steps under the said guidelines against the Claimant pending the final determination of this matter.

2. An Order that the said guidelines complained of in paragraphs 2 and 3 above be suspended pending the final determination of the matter;

3. OR in the alternative that this matter be fast-tracked so that a decision is delivered before nomination day.

The hearing on the evening, Friday, October 25, today lasted for nearly three hours well into the evening.

Justice Morley had adjourned the first hearing of the matter waiting for response submissions from the AG, and today he began by calling on her to present. She presented arguments to the judge as to the main differences between the recently concluded case in St. Kitts where a report on a similar motion captioned, “Public Service Act of 2011 may be unconstitutional”. The similarity of the claim is where the civil servant there “sought a declaration to determine that he was entitled to take an active part in a political organization and more particularly to run for elected office while being a civil servant, as part of his constitutional rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.”

There the judge recently declared that those regulations were unconstitutional after they were challenged in the court. Following that decision, the Attorney General there spoke on the matter. He said the Government will establish categories of public servants who should be limited in terms of their involvement in political activities. He added, “We will determine that if they want to participate, they will do so properly.”

Justice Morley began his session on the matter by asking the AG to address the issue as to why should someone have to resign their job with the government if they wish to contest the elections. In her reply the AG addresses and stressed the issue which was repeated in the Deputy Governor’s Elections Guidelines which said public officers “must be mindful at all times of the need to safeguard the integrity and impartiality of the Public Service given their role within the Public Service.”

The offending information in the Guidelines in appear particular at Sec 2.2.1 (a) – “A Public Officer within the Politically Restricted and Partially Politically Restricted categories who is intending to run for political office must resign from his/her post before being publicly adopted, named or declared as a prospective candidate for any political party or as an independent candidate.

(b) A Public Officer within the Politically Free Category must resign from his/her post before being nominated on nomination day.

In the end, the judge told both sides to come back with submissions to show how the issue can be addressed going forward, especially that no one should have to resign and suffer the indignity of having to apply afresh for the job he/she held. Meanwhile, Vickie’s attorney is expected to continue to stress that in these modern times that the Constitution allows freedom expression etc. and that may come with restrictions, not as antiquated as the Election Guidelines recommend.

The urgency of the matter, of course, is that the matter should be adjudicated before nomination day, and Judge Morley has said after receiving submissions on time he will deliver a judgment on October 6, one day before nomination day, which is October 7.

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by B. Roach

Vickie ‘Storm’ Locker

On June 23, 2017 Vickie Stevenson had been serving on probation as a prison officer when about two years ago in June 2015 she filed sexual harassment complaints with the Governor against the top officials of HM Prison where she worked in Brades. (https://www.themontserratreporter.com/she-is-back-to-work-after-two-years-but-no-word-on-actions-from-complaint/

That matter and other reports saw a social commentator write in these columns: “…So that when Her Majesty’s Prison, Montserrat, a place of custodial protection and correction is attracting a reputation of ill repute and sexual perversion, social decay is plastered everywhere for all to see…”

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“After enduring further harassment and victimization, enquiries as to her status as she continued to receive a salary, no information as to disciplinary charges brought against her, ridicule of the police for bringing her before the judge on charges that should have not passed reported stage, she is finally still in the employ of GoM she reports, as a senior clerical officer in the Ministry of Housing beginning just about two weeks ago.”

Today, still on the job in the Ministry of Housing, Vickie wants to contest the popularly contested 2019 General Elections but is prohibited from doing so without having to resign her employment in the Public Service.

It was this desire that caused her attorney Warren Cassell to file an application on October 7, 2019 in the High Court by way of originating motion seeking constitutional relief (to include a declaration) under section 20 of the Montserrat Constitution Order 2010 (“the Constitution”) with respect to the infringement or likely infringement of the Applicant’ s fundamental rights and freedoms as guaranteed by sections 13(1) and 14(1) of the Constitution.

Justice Morley had postponed the hearing of the application which named the Attorney General and the Deputy Governor, Lyndell Simpson for a response from the Attorney General, and which had also asked for interim relief as follows:

1. An Order that the Defendants or either of them take no steps under the said guidelines against the Claimant pending the final determination of this matter.

2. An Order that the said guidelines complained of in paragraphs 2 and 3 above be suspended pending the final determination of the matter;

3. OR in the alternative that this matter be fast-tracked so that a decision is delivered before nomination day.

The hearing on the evening, Friday, October 25, today lasted for nearly three hours well into the evening.

Justice Morley had adjourned the first hearing of the matter waiting for response submissions from the AG, and today he began by calling on her to present. She presented arguments to the judge as to the main differences between the recently concluded case in St. Kitts where a report on a similar motion captioned, “Public Service Act of 2011 may be unconstitutional”. The similarity of the claim is where the civil servant there “sought a declaration to determine that he was entitled to take an active part in a political organization and more particularly to run for elected office while being a civil servant, as part of his constitutional rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.”

There the judge recently declared that those regulations were unconstitutional after they were challenged in the court. Following that decision, the Attorney General there spoke on the matter. He said the Government will establish categories of public servants who should be limited in terms of their involvement in political activities. He added, “We will determine that if they want to participate, they will do so properly.”

Justice Morley began his session on the matter by asking the AG to address the issue as to why should someone have to resign their job with the government if they wish to contest the elections. In her reply the AG addresses and stressed the issue which was repeated in the Deputy Governor’s Elections Guidelines which said public officers “must be mindful at all times of the need to safeguard the integrity and impartiality of the Public Service given their role within the Public Service.”

The offending information in the Guidelines in appear particular at Sec 2.2.1 (a) – “A Public Officer within the Politically Restricted and Partially Politically Restricted categories who is intending to run for political office must resign from his/her post before being publicly adopted, named or declared as a prospective candidate for any political party or as an independent candidate.

(b) A Public Officer within the Politically Free Category must resign from his/her post before being nominated on nomination day.

In the end, the judge told both sides to come back with submissions to show how the issue can be addressed going forward, especially that no one should have to resign and suffer the indignity of having to apply afresh for the job he/she held. Meanwhile, Vickie’s attorney is expected to continue to stress that in these modern times that the Constitution allows freedom expression etc. and that may come with restrictions, not as antiquated as the Election Guidelines recommend.

The urgency of the matter, of course, is that the matter should be adjudicated before nomination day, and Judge Morley has said after receiving submissions on time he will deliver a judgment on October 6, one day before nomination day, which is October 7.