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Businessmen have 3 months to forward documents

By Denyse Renne denyse.renne@trinidadexpress.com

Businessmen Steve Ferguson and Ameer Edoo have three months in which to submit their documentation to the Privy Council.

A legal source affiliated with the case said yesterday the businessmen and three companies will soon start the process of copying and binding documents and sending them to London.

The legal source said the possibility a hearing will take place this year is slim, since the Privy Council is already booked with cases.

“More than likely we may get a hearing anytime from January (2015) go back,” the  source said.

“Getting the hearing is one matter, awaiting a judgment is another issue,” the source said.

Adding that the process can be expedited if the State requests a speedy hearing date, the source said the focus now is ensuring the large dossier of documents, which at one time filled tables in the courtroom and were brought to court in the tray of vans, are delivered within the allotted three-month time frame.

The Express yesterday afternoon texted Attorney General Anand Ramlogan asking whether he has or intends to request from the Privy Council an expedited hearing but he is yet to respond.

On Wednesday, Appeal Court Judges Allan Mendonca, Peter Jamadar and Gregory Smith in a 57-page ruling dismissed the grounds raised by the businessmen and companies challenging the repeal of section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011.

The judges wrote separate rulings and addressed the grounds raised by the appellants. All grounds were dismissed.

In their submissions to the court, the appellants through their attorneys argued they were being targeted and as such the contentious Section 34 was repealed. They also presented to the court a newspaper clipping and raised the issue of separation of powers.

However, Smith in his ruling said claims of being targeted was “speculative, unbalanced and unfair”. He said further when the error was made, the State took action to rectify the Parliament oversight.

“Even if one could argue that this case of oversight was not properly established, there is no escaping the conclusion that the true purpose of the amendment was to correct certain serious flaws in the enactment and proclamation of Section 34 as opposed to the narrow and limited ‘purpose’ of depriving the appellants of a Section 34 defence,” Smith said.

On the issue of the newspaper reporting over debates in Parliament regarding Section 34, Smith said the reports focused mainly on the effects of the repeal as opposed to Parliament’s intention to rectify the defects in the legislation.

“The newspaper reports cited were necessarily selective and incomplete. They did not mention the other serious issues which the Parliament actually considered in relation to the Amendment.

“In so far as the appellants rely on the contents of the newspaper reports to bolster their contention that the courts should not accept the AG’s statements that the amendment was passed to cure an oversight, this is again an unbalanced view of facts. Further, these reports are of very little relevance or assistance on this issue of fact,” he said.

Stating that the repeal did not breach the appellants’ constitutional rights, Smith said the law was passed by a special three-fifths majority in both Houses of Parliament and that the repeal was justified.

“By passing the amendment by a special 3/5 majority in each House of Parliament, the amendment made it abundantly clear that it was reversing retroactively the repercussions which ensued from the proclamation of Section 34,’’ he said. 

Justice Peter Jamadar in his ruling said there was no breach of the separation of powers “because the collective intention of the entire Parliament was not to interfere with or dictate terms in relation to the exercise of judicial power (though the Amended Act does this to a certain extent by sections 6 and 7), but rather to correct collective Parliamentary oversight and to correct what had become clearly a flawed policy and piece of legislation in the eyes of Parliament”.

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