Fri | Feb 26, 2021

Delay ‘troubling’ as Hayles case in limbo since 2017

Published:Thursday | November 19, 2020 | 12:13 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
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There is growing concern that a court injunction taken out by former Member of Parliament (MP) Ian Hayles more than three years ago, barring the Parliament from tabling a report from the Integrity Commission detailing allegations of irregularities against him, could become a precedent-setting decision.

“Not until we know the arguments could we assess for ourselves the extent to which several other MPs, or other parties who will be subjects of the Integrity Commission’s investigations and reports in the future, would be able to go down this road, and that would be very troubling indeed,” Jeanette Calder, founder and executive director of the Jamaica Accountability Meter Portal (JAMP), has said.

“So are we opening a Pandora’s box?” she questioned.

Queries made by The Gleaner to the Integrity Commission revealed that more than three and a half years after the former People’s National Party MP for Hanover West got an injunction to prevent Parliament from tabling the report, the matter is still awaiting a new hearing date from the court.

In March 2017, the Supreme Court granted the injunction blocking the tabling in the Parliament of a report by then Contractor General Dirk Harrison into allegations of conflict of interest, irregularities, and/or impropriety in relation to the construction of buildings by Hayles without the approval of the Hanover Parish Council (now Municipal Corporation).

EXTENDED PROHIBITION

The Office of the Contractor General and two other anti-corruption oversight bodies have since been subsumed into the Integrity Commission.

The matter was heard by Justice Nicole Simmons on May 11, 2017, at which point she made an order that the stay which prohibited the tabling of the report be extended to the following day.

On May 12, 2017, Justice Simmons indicated that the “stay is extended until the completion of the hearing of the application” for leave to apply for judicial review.

In a Gleaner interview, Calder said that the matter should be brought to the attention of the judiciary, and, if necessary, Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, who had given particular commitments in relation to timelines for completing certain matters before the courts.

“I think he has been doing an exemplary job, but with all instances, nobody is perfect, and you can’t keep your eyes on every moving part of an entire judicial system.

“I am of the view that it is for us to bring it to his attention and ask for a commitment as to when this can begin and when this will end, because it is, indeed, effectively preventing Parliament from doing its work,” the JAMP founder said.

Calder argued that it would be useful for the public to be informed about what kind of justification could be made in the judicial system that would result in the blocking of Parliament from conducting its duties.

“I would be very interested in the argument that has been put forward, and I think the public would have an interest in it,” she added.

In an emailed response to questions posed by The Gleaner on the court case, executive director of the Integrity Commission, Greg Christie, said that the matter has not been relisted, noting that no new hearing date has been set. He said that the injunction was still in force.

The Integrity Commission stated in its annual report for the period ending March 31, 2020, that the case was ongoing.

“As at the end of the reporting year, the parties were awaiting a new hearing date for the proceedings,” the anti-corruption body said.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com