Facing the possibility of personally being held responsible for the payment of costs are the Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer and the current Chairman of the country’s Electoral Commission, Juno Samuel. Some sources are of the view that they could be asked to pay over $100,000 to Sir Gerald Watt QC, for what is being described as his 2011 unlawful removal from the “statutory entrenched position as Chairman of the Electoral Commission…”
The lawyer for Sir Gerald, Dr. David Dorsett, seems pretty confident that the St. Kitts and Nevis case with Ms Inniss can in fact be incorporated in the decision-making process when the High Court assesses the damages to be paid to Sir Gerald, since he was successful in his legal challenge of his dismissal in the Court of Appeal.
According to Dr. Dorsett, “In that (Inniss) case, the Privy Council granted an award of $50,000 for vindicatory damages and another $51,025.40 for contractual damages. Of course each particular case has to be assessed on its merits so I would not necessarily say they would give that exact amount but the Council used that as the prime example,” he said.
The case for Inniss in St. Kitts however was not an easy one and it took some 10 years before she managed to secure justice for her wrongful dismissal. She was forced out before the formal end of her contract. For justice, she had to take her case all the way to London, at the Privy Council.
It was on 30th July, 2008 that the Privy Council made known its decision that the appeal by Ms Inniss should be allowed and that the earlier decision of the OECS Appeals Court on 12th January, 2002 should be set aside and that the orders and declarations by Moore J on 21st February, 2000 should be restored.
She was awarded $100,000.
The Privy Council decision also indicated that “There is much more to this case than the element of distress and inconvenience that the award was directed to in this case. The summary nature of the dismissal, for which no reason was given, must have been acutely distressing in itself. There was a risk that this would have an adverse effect on the appellant’s future its own interests. Adequate vindication of the appellant’s constitutional right is especially important in such circumstances.”
The lawyer for Sir Gerald is therefore paying much attention to the Inniss case and what was determined by the Privy Council.
In a hallmark decision last week, the Appeals Court ruled that Sir Gerald shall be paid general damages and vindicatory damages. They also indicated that said costs ought to be assessed by the lower court and that costs must also be assessed by the High Court.
It was the decision of the court that Prime Minister Spencer’s recommendation to dismiss Sir Gerald was both misdirected in law and irrational. The government had questioned the performance of Sir Gerald in their determination to remove him.
After Sir Gerald won his case in the High Court, the government of Antigua appealed but lost on 11 grounds.
However, as part of his move to ensure compensation, Sir Gerald cross-appealed the section of the High Court related to costs and damages. He won and is now expecting to be financially compensated by Spencer and Samuel, or the government. Both Samuel and the prime minister have given indication however that they are not accepting the decision and are hoping to take their appeal to the Privy Council in London.