The state has lodged an appeal in the matter pertaining to residents of Salisbury who were arrested following protest action which rocked the community in 2015 and in which a High Court Judge had ruled in favor of the,
In the long-running case, attorney representing the residents, Cara Shillingford had filed a motion questioning the constitutionality of the Riot Act, under which they were arrested.
Senior Counsel Tony Astaphan had asked the court to “strike out the motion” because, “it was frivolous, vexatious or an abuse of the process of the Court.”
However, recently Justice Birnie Stephenson ruled that there were merits in Shillingford’s motion and the matter is now set for May 24, 2018.
However, the state has appealed the matter which will be heard before the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court of Appeal.
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.”
Anthony Astaphan SC, lawyer for the State, said the Appeal raises serious questions in law and it has “strong prospects of success.”
“The Learned Judge erred in law and misdirected herself when she failed to consider the issues of law and construction raised in the Fixed Date Claim Form and therefore dismissed the Appellants’ application to strike out on the erroneous ground that issues of fact were pleaded and raised,” lawyers for the state said in the appeal.
Grounds for appeal include, “the Claimants/Respondents have no constitutional rights which were breached by the Proclamation and orders to disperse under the Riot Act” and the fundamental rights provisions of the Constitution are not “absolute and do not guarantee or protect the right to block highways or commit acts of violence or riot.”
“Consequently, the Riot Act does not contravene any of the provision of the fundamental rights provisions…hence the Riot Act is reasonably justified in a democratic society,” attorneys for the state claimed in the appeal.
They further stated that the ruling of the trial Judge was “wrong in law” and in the circumstance, the Applicants “respectfully ask that they be granted leave to appeal the judgment of the Learned Judge.”
Over 50 residents from Salisbury were issued with summons after they are charged under the Riot Act following protest action in the community.
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.
Both actions were described as “riotous” by the police.