An appeal by the attorney general of Dominica challenging the ruling of high court judge Bernie Stephenson in the Salisbury Riot case has been upheld by Judges of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC).
In his appeal, Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan, lawyer for the State, said the appeal raises serious questions in law and it has “strong prospects of success.”
However, Justice Birnie Stephenson ruled that there were merits in lawyer for the Salisbury people Cara Shillingford’s arguments.
In her 16-page ruling on the matter, Justice Stephenson had said, “The Court has taken cognizance of the fact that what is being claimed includes a breach of the Claimants Constitutional Rights and this Court is of the considered view that given the nature of the Claimants case, striking out would be inappropriate. Further considering the allegations being made by the Claimants, the Court should be slow and hesitant to drive the Claimants from the seat of judgment.”
In its ruling, the Court of Appeal said, “the Learned Judge did not address the constitutional matters raised on both sides and hence her decision cannot be sustained.” They have since remitted the matter back to the high court to be heard before a different Judge.
Astaphan said that the decision of the court of appeal means that the matter will be further delayed. “It’s unfortunate because it means further delays for the issue of whether the charges are valid or not,” he said.
Cara Shillingford remains optimistic and said that the State is to be blamed for the appeal.
“The State in appealing against the decision of the high court further delayed the matter. This means the Salisbury people will be before the court for a longer period. I thought the State should have conceded…the court of Appeal is of the view that the trial Judge did not deal with all the matters before her,” Shillingford said.
Over 50 residents from Salisbury were issued with summons after they were charged under the Riot Act following the protests. Both actions were described as “riotous” by the police.
Shillingford said the Riot Act, which was passed in 1897, was unconstitutional.
In May and June 2015 the community was engulfed in disturbances as the police and residents faced off. The first action was in protest of poor farm road conditions in the area.
It was eventually broken up by the police and the second protest, in June, took place after the police swooped into the community and arrested six residents on allegations that they were part of the first protest.