A number of Salisbury residents summoned to appear before the St. Joseph magistrate court on January 13, 2022, say they will make no appearance in court on that day, as according to them, the police summons is a violation of a stay of proceedings order issued by High Court Judge, Justice Birnie Stephenson.
The matter dates back to 2015 during the months of May and June when the community was engulfed in disturbances as the police and residents faced off.
The first action on May 11, 2015, was to get the attention of the government to repair feeder roads in the farming community. Hundreds of villages blocked a section of the Salisbury Highway with boulders and other items which was eventually cleared by the police with the use of tear gas.
One month later, June 11, 2015, police officers swooped into the community and arrested six residents on allegations that they were part of May’s protest; this sparked another round of protest action by the villagers.
Over 50 residents from Salisbury were charged under the Riot Act following the protests.
According to the charge of the police, the residents riotously and tumultuously assembled together to disturb the public peace and continued to do so disregarding the commands of police officers.
Attorney-at-law Cara Shillingford-Marsh who represents the villagers subsequently filed a motion in the High court questioning the constitutionality of the Riot Act, under which they were charged.
In the long-running matter, Senior Counsel Tony Astaphan had asked the court to strike out the motion. However, High Court Judge, Justice Stephenson, ruled in favour of the residents of Salisbury.
In her judgement she stated, there were merits in Shillingford’s motion and the matter is now before the court.
Additionally she ordered, “The matters in the Magistrate Court involving the claimants and others arising out of incidents on the 11th May 2015 and 11th June 2015 at Salisbury by consent is hereby stayed until further or other order of this court.”
In recent weeks, Salisbury residents were resummoned to appear before the magistrate court on January 13 which the member of parliament for the Salisbury constituency, Hector John, believes is a total disregard by the police officers of Justice Stephenson’s order.
“The matter at the High Court is still ongoing and the Police have no right to issue summons to villagers on a matter that has been stayed by the court. We have consulted our attorney and absolutely no one from Salisbury who received summons for this matter should appear at the Magistrate’s court in St Joseph on Thursday January 13, 2022,” he advised villagers.
John further averred that the “breach” of the order of the high court is “provocation of the hardworking people of Salisbury by this Roosevelt Skerrit led Government and the police.”
He said while the people of Salisbury are law abiding citizens, they will not allow anyone to violate their constitutional rights.
The MP further stated that they have been properly advised and we will act accordingly by not showing up to the hearing at the Magistrate’s court.