KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell has lost his appeal in a case that had led to a halt in proceedings at the Ottley Hall Commission of Inquiry.
The Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal in a June 25 judgement dismissed Sir James’ appeal against Justice Gertel Thom’s decision not to grant review of Ephraim Georges, the sole commissioner appointed to inquire into the failure of the Ottley Hall and Union Island marina projects.
The Inquiry was launched in 2003 to inquire into the facts and circumstances of the projects.
The Ottley Hall Marina, which was build in 1993 when Mitchell’s New Democratic Party was in office, was subsequently valued at between EC$3.5 million and EC$7 million but left the nation with a debt of EC$200 million.
Mitchell was prime minster when both projects were built.
The terms of reference for the Inquiry authorised Georges to, among other things, inquire into bona fides and circumstances surrounding the projects.
According to the judgement, the commissioner was to report immediately in writing to the Governor-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) any facts or circumstances or evidence that might give rise to, show, or establish that any criminal act might have been committed and in any event he was to issue an interim report within six months of the date of the establishment of the commission.
Georges issued to the Governor-General and the DPP a “Report of Possible Criminal Acts or Offences by Certain Individuals”.
The report contained a number of allegations adverse to Mitchell and he sought juridical review to quash the interim report and to restrain Georges from continuing with the inquiry.
Mitchell complained that the report contained conclusionary statements and findings against him.
They were arrived at without his having been given an opportunity to respond to any charges prior to the findings being made.
According to the judgement, “the learned trial judge was justified in finding as she did that the fair-minded and informed observer would not conclude that there was a real possibility that the Commissioner was biased, or that there has been procedural unfairness.
The justices, however, did not make any order as to cost, ruling, “Public interest litigation should not normally be inhibited by questions of costs.”
Attorney Joseph Delves, a lawyer for the Inquiry, last November gave an undertaking on behalf of Georges not to commence any hearing of the inquiry that may affect former Mitchell until the hearing of an appeal.