Ottley Hall Inquiry case to be heard by Privy Council
November 11, 2014
Ottley Hall Inquiry case to be heard by Privy Council

The case which former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell has brought against Commissioner of the Ottley Hall Commission of Inquiry Ephraim Georges will be heard in London before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on November 17.

Sir James is appealing to the Privy Council, {{more}}claiming apparent bias and procedural unfairness by the Commissioner of the Inquiry Ephraim Georges.

The Ottley Hall development project began in the 1990s when the appellant, James Mitchell, was the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. The project was a disaster and funds ran out with the development unfinished. A new Government was elected in April 2001. In April 2003, the Governor-General of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines appointed the respondent, Ephraim Georges, a retired High Court Judge to lead a Commission of Inquiry into the failure of the Ottley Hall development project.

Clause 13 of the terms of reference required Georges to immediately report anything that may show a criminal act, a bribe or fraudulent behaviour. Georges produced an interim report, pursuant to clause 13. It included a number of adverse findings about Sir James.

Sir James was granted leave for judicial review in relation to the statements made in the report.

On June 23, 2011, High Court Judge Gertel Thom dismissed an application made by Sir James Mitchell for judicial review of the report. She held that a fair-minded observer would not conclude from the contents of the report that there was a real possibility of bias. She also ruled that the order granting a stay of proceedings of the Commission of Inquiry be discharged.

Sir James appealed, and in a judgement handed down on June 25, 2012, Justices of Appeal Davidson Kelvin Baptiste, Don Mitchell and Clare Henry confirmed the decision of Justice Gertel Thom to dismiss the attempt of Sir James to quash the interim report issued by Georges and to restrain the sole Commissioner from continuing with the inquiry. The Court of Appeal held that the test was whether the Commissioner had closed his mind and demonstrated irreversible prejudgment and prejudice.

Sir James has now appealed to the Privy Council.

Justices Lady Hale, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Sumption and Lord Hughes will adjudicate on: What is the appropriate test for apparent bias in the circumstances? Was the test applied by the Court of Appeal, namely that the appellant had to prove that the respondent had closed his mind, correct? Is apparent bias demonstrated by the respondent in the Report, or otherwise in the circumstances of the case? Is the respondent disqualified from further conducting the Commission of Inquiry? Was the Report procedurally unfair, because it was produced outside the respondent’s terms of reference (Clause 13), or otherwise in breach of the rules of natural justice?

The Ottley Hall Inquiry has been at a standstill since 2007 when Georges issued the interim report and called on Sir James to appear before the Commission as a witness.

Sir James will be represented by Ramesh Maharaj and his daughter Louise Mitchell-Joseph.