Lawyer and MP seek to challenge ban on Court House Yard parking
The parking lot at the Court House Yard
March 3, 2023

Lawyer and MP seek to challenge ban on Court House Yard parking

A parliamentarian and a lawyer who are among those restricted or prohibited by the Government from parking in the Court House Yard are seeking to challenge this decision in court, describing it as illegal, unreasonable and irrational.

They are also seeking an interim injunction to allow “an immediate return to the centuries-old practice” of parking in the Court House Yard.

Attorney-at-law Jemalie John and Opposition senator Shevern Lewis-John have applied to the court for an order that leave be granted for them to apply for Judicial Review of the decision by the Cabinet that effective November 18, 2022, parking in the Court House Yard would be restricted to (i) Persons employed at the High Court Office (ii) Persons employed at the House of Assembly (iii) Current members of Parliament when there is a sitting of Parliament (iv) Counsel employed at the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions/National Prosecution Service.

The application, dated February 17, 2023 and prepared by attorney Jomo Thomas names the Prime Minister (Cabinet) as the first respondent and the Registrar of the High Court as the Second Respondent.

The applicants want the court to declare that the Court House Yard forms part of the precincts of the court and the power to regulate its use resides in the Chief Justice and not the Cabinet.

John and Lewis-John are also seeking a declaration that the decision of the Cabinet, which was communicated in a letter from the Registrar is “ultra vires and thereby illegal” or alternatively, “procedurally improper being in breach of the principles of natural justice,” since the decision was taken without giving those affected an opportunity to be heard.

“The decision to prohibit the First Applicant (John), members of the private bar from parking at the Court House while permitting ‘Counsel employed at the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions/National Prosecution Service’ to do so is unreasonable and irrational,” the application said.

“The decision to restrict the Second Applicant (Lewis-John) and parliamentarians to park in the Court House Yard only when parliament is in progress is unreasonable and irrational since the need for access by parliamentarians to the House of Assembly is not limited to period when parliament is in session.

“In writing and issuing the 18th November 2022 letter the Second Respondent (the Registrar) performed the role of an agent of the executive (Cabinet) which exceeded her authority as Registrar,” the application continued.

Thomas said that in implementing the decision, “irreparable damage” was caused as “members of the private bar experience obstacles in accessing the court to represent their clients and jurors face obstacles in attending court in a timely manner, thereby disrupting the judicial process.”

According to the application, the restriction has also “caused irreparable damage to the ability of parliamentarians to properly represent their constituents since they now experience difficulty to access the House of Assembly Office when they need to do so on days when parliament is not in session.”

Thomas said the applicants have “a good arguable case and should be granted an interim injunction to allow an immediate return to the centuries-old practice of utilizing the court house yard thus aiding in the efficient and effective dispensation of justice and the making of laws in St Vincent and the Grenadines.”

On November 17, 2022, while speaking at the opening of two vegetable markets in Kingstown, Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves said it was unfair that lawyers were getting free parking in the court house yard every day.

He said the “disorder in the Court House yard” was a “security issue” which needed to be addressed.

“I have notice for all of you, the only people who are going to be parked inside there are people who are working in the court house, not lawyers. Find your own parking space, I’m shutting you out from there.”

The following day, the Registrar, in an email sent to 153 email addresses informed members of the Bar of the Cabinet decision.