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Govt To Drop Appeal Of Court’S Privilege Ruling

Fred Smith

Fred Smith

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

THE government has filed notice of its intent to drop its appeal of the landmark Supreme Court ruling on parliamentary privilege alongside former Marathon MP and Cabinet minister Jerome Fitzgerald, according to attorney Fred Smith.

Mr Smith, QC, told The Tribune yesterday that a notice of discontinuance had already been filed, and a formal position was expected at a status hearing scheduled for June 26.

The move signals a reversal from the former

administration’s position, which previously argued that Mr Fitzgerald’s statements in Parliament were protected from legal liability by way of constitutional provision, parliamentary privilege, and also legislatively under the Powers and Privileges Act.

It is also unclear whether costs ordered by the court will be paid by the Public Treasury or by Mr Fitzgerald privately.

Justice Charles ruled that Mr Fitzgerald could not be protected by parliamentary privilege, and ordered him to pay $150,000 in damages for the breach – a decision the former Marathon MP contended was made in error because he was “at all times acting in the public interest.”

“Save The Bays and Mr (Louis) Bacon sued the executive branch of government, the state, so this is obviously going to be an issue for Fitzgerald as he has personally appealed the matter,” said Mr Smith.

“Our case was against the state of the Bahamas for allowing its ministers to illegally or unconstitutionally access our emails, so the government has in fact filed a notice of discontinuance of that appeal. They will have to (formally take) the position in court on the 26th of June.

“There will be issues of whether or not Fitzgerald is going to personally continue his appeal and whether he is going to pay the $150,000 personally. They (the government) can’t take contradictory positions as far as we’re concerned, Mr Fitzgerald was acting as a member of the executive and that’s our whole case so it’s the state that owes it.”

Attempts to reach Mr Fitzgerald and Attorney General Carl Bethel were unsuccessful up to press time.

At a hearing last month, Crown counsel Loren Klein asked Court of Appeal Justices Dame Anita Allen, Jon Isaacs and Stella Crane-Scott for a 30-day adjournment to allow the incoming attorney general to be briefed on the conduct of the proceedings thus far and for instructions to be taken.

Wayne Munroe, QC, who was also present for the hearing, said his presence there was concerning the interests of the speaker of the House of Assembly in which the issue of parliamentary privilege arose.

Yesterday, Mr Munroe said: “Curiously with that one, if they discontinue that appeal it would be curiously in the interest of the opposition. We would have a judgment that we could get court orders for Cabinet ministers for what they say in the House.”

In August last year, then Free National Movement Deputy Leader K Peter Turnquest expressed support for the court ruling that Mr Fitzgerald could not be protected by parliamentary privilege when he tabled the personal emails of members of Save the Bays.

Mr Turnquest, now deputy prime minister, noted last year that while the court may not have jurisdiction in the matter, he believes that Parliament must do a better job at policing itself.

Comments

TalRussell 2 years, 8 months ago

Comrades! How can you tell that the Tribune are not trying to run up ratings by improving story content to spike up a bigger share of readership - cause they keep on giving story space to King's Counsel Freddy. There are some real news stories out there and the KC's most recent court battles is not one them.

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killemwitdakno 2 years, 8 months ago

Unclear if he or the treasury pays the fine um why?

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proudloudandfnm 2 years, 8 months ago

Fitzgerald pays the fine. He is the criminal in this...

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TalRussell 2 years, 8 months ago

Frankly speaking, don't all Comrades want to knows what if any hold outside/inside foreiger monies is/does/did/may have been vested in the nation's local affairs? The red party has been proven to have intentionally misled voters - and why can't all red MP's come clean as to who helped with funding their 2017 General Election campaigns - the reds don't need wait for Freedom of information or campaign reform legislation to come clean with the public - now, do they? We do know for a certainty that this minister of finance rushed to borrow $722 million - all in name to fund campaign promises made by the former PLP administration.

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Tarzan 2 years, 8 months ago

Get a grip Tal. We know who bribed the PLP for endless special favors don't we. Glass house, throw no stones.

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Publius 2 years, 8 months ago

Isn't it interesting what gets immediate attention and reversal once our new government comes in?

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TalRussell 2 years, 8 months ago

Comrade Publius, is it just a red shirts coincidence how everything gets emergency speed attention - except reducing the prices on Bread Basket items. Does speaks volumes as to the makeup of the "4th" Regime's cabinet. Colonial cabinets have been brought down with lightening speed on far less grounds.

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