New Democratic Party politician, Ben Exeter. (IWN file photo)

A High Court judge has dismissed an application by New Democratic Party (NDP) politician Ben Exeter for judicial review of the decision by the authorities to revoke his licence to possess a firearm.

Justice Brian Cottle ruled that Exeter had advanced no “good reasons for failing to pursue the alternative forms of redress”.

He further said the opposition politician “must first exhaust the alternative forms of redress and if he is still not satisfied he may then apply for leave”.

The court heard that Exeter, who unsuccessfully contested the Dec. 9 general elections as a candidate for the NDP in Central Leeward, was arrested outside the House of Assembly while the new Members of Parliament were being sworn in on Dec. 29.

At the time of his arrest, Exeter had in his possession a firearm for which he held a licence. The court was told that “as the events unfolded, the applicant was arrested by the police and his weapon was seized”.

Following his arrest, Exeter received a letter from Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security and chair of the Firearms Licensing Board, Godfrey Pompey, informing him that the licence which he had been granted on May 21, 2015 was being “revoked with immediate effect”.

The letter, which was also copied to the Commissioner of Police and other law enforcement authorities, informed Exeter that “the firearm will be kept in the police custody for safe keeping and any additional ammunition must be turned over to the Police”.

In the application for judicial review, the attorney for Exeter argued that no reason had been given to his client regarding the decision to revoke the licence.

Exeter's gun licence was suspended after he was arrested in Kingstown on Dec. 29, 2015.
Exeter’s gun licence was suspended after he was arrested in Kingstown on Dec. 29, 2015.

The lawyer, Emery Robertson, argued that Exeter was given no opportunity to be heard before the decision was taken to revoke the licence.

But Cottle told the attorney that only one matter was of concern to him (Cottle) and invited Robertson to address the issue of whether any alternative remedy to judicial review existed and if so, why was it thought that judicial review proceedings were the most appropriate way to seeking address.

Robertson provided the court with written submissions with Section 13 of the Firearms Act allowing for a person aggrieved by a revocation of his firearm licence “to appeal in writing to the Minister and thereafter to the Cabinet if not satisfied by the response of the Minister”.

The judge noted that Exeter had decided to forego these alternatives and that his attorney was “unable to explain to the court why the mere exercise of executive authority can only be corrected by judicial intervention”.

Cottle said that the “court should consider whether the alternative statutory remedy will resolve the question of issue fully and directly and whether the statutory procedure would be quicker or slower than the procedure by way of judicial review and whether the matter depends on some particular or technical knowledge which is more readily available to the alternative appellate body”.

The judge said that he also considered the case put forward by Robertson that in exceptional circumstances, the court in its discretion grants judicial review to an applicant who had not exhausted his alternative rights of appeal”.

“Applying this principle to the instant case, I do not consider that there exist such exceptional circumstances so as to merit the grant of judicial review when the applicant has not availed himself of the alternative remedies provided in the Firearm Act,” the judge ruled, making no order for costs.

5 replies on “Exeter’s application for judicial review of gun licence revocation dismissed”

  1. This was a rush for justice on the part of the applicant and his attorney. The judge was right in his ruling. Exhausting all possible remedies is a fundamental of judicial review, and that was not done. However, hopefully it is not to late, and the laws may allow for the applicant to reapply for the review. These matters take time, and if there is any abuse of power or authority, it will be easily proven. In my humble opinion is a reflection of acting in haste, and as professionals these mistake should not happen. The laws are clear, and very specific.

    1. I disagree! There is a provision stating that when special circumstances come into play the judge can make a ruling. In this case there is special circumstances…Was there recently an election? Was Exeter one of the candidates in that election?….So, these are not special circumstances? is it just average Joe on an a average day? Obviously not! Exeter didn’t even break any laws! If Vincentians let these sort of things go without crying foul then we deserve the Gonsalves tyranny, because that is what it will be sooner than you think!

      1. You are quite right Lostpet, I will tell you I have a whole dossier on Judge Brian Cottles past judgments. I will hold off for the time being but I may well have to write a letter and opinion regarding what people have said in the past.

        But I will say this I do not think that a High Court Judge should practice where his home land is it will always bring controversy in the minds of people whenever political matters are judged on. I see it as unfair on the Judge and unfair on the people, I just hope that we never got him because no one else wanted him.

  2. The Judge is quite right in normal circumstances in a normal country but in SVG you can be sure it will be next to impossible to get the matter into court and even then to get unbiased hearings that I suspect is the reason they took the route they took.

    Is that contempt of Court? well it is my opinion and could well be the opinion of many others.

Comments are closed.