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Justice Stanley John, a retired Trinidadian jurist, was contracted to preside over the trial of the petitions. (iWN file photo)
Justice Stanley John, a retired Trinidadian jurist, was contracted to preside over the trial of the petitions. (iWN file photo)

Three months after his initial ruling and weeks after an appeal was filed, acting High Court judge, Justice Stanley John has responded to a request from lawyers for the government by providing “supplemental reasons” for rejecting the evidence of a key witness in the North Windward election petition case.

The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) filed the petitions, challenging the results in North Windward and Central Leeward in the December 2015 general elections.

Those constituencies were among eight that electoral officials called for the Unity Labour Party, which secured a fourth consecutive term in office by a one-seat majority in the 15-member Parliament. 

Lauron “Sharer” Baptiste and Benjamin Exeter each filed petitions challenging the announced victory of the ULP’s Montgomery Daniel and Sir Louis Straker in North Windward and Central Leeward. 

Ben Exeter Lauron Baptiste
The petitioners, Ben Exeter, left, and Lauron “Sharer” Baptiste in conversation during the trial in March. (iWN photo)

In a March 21 ruling, Justice John, a retired Trinidadian jurist who was contracted to hear the case, dismissed the petitions, saying he had found no evidence supporting their claims.

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Justice John’s appointment ended on March 21, but in letters on March 22 and 27 to the Registrar of the High Court, Joseph Delves, a lawyer for the government in the case, wrote asking that the then former judge supplement his ruling.

Delves told the registrar that there is likely to be an appeal in the matter, so his clients wanted the judge to explain why he rejected the petitioners’ claim that there was no recount of the ballots in North Windward the day after the election.

He also wanted the judge to say why he rejected Baptiste’s claim that there were 39 more ballots than there were counterfoils at polling station NWI, in North Windward.

The registrar responded on April 1, telling the lawyer that Justice John’s appointment ended on March 21, but she had called his letter to the judge’s attention.

Delves replied to the registrar on April 4, telling her that the solution to the problem “is to arrange for the temporary appointment of His Lordship in order that he may give his outstanding reasons.

He asked the registrar to inform the Chief Justice of his letters so that she may take such action, as she deems fit and proper.

Justice John was subsequently appointed a temporary judge in Antigua and Barbuda, another circuit in the jurisdiction of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, of which SVG is a member. 

And, in a supplemental ruling last Thursday, June 13, Justice John noted Delves letter and cited two cases — Verbin Bowen et al v The Attorney General et al and Peter Thomas v Desireen Douglas et al — as providing legal basis on which he could acquiesce to the lawyer’s request. 

Excess counterfoils allegation 

Justice John said the effect of the complaint that there were 39 counterfoils at polling station NW1 is that there must have been missing ballot papers that were not accounted for.

He said that during the trial, the evidence of Veronica John, the presiding officer, was that when the issue was brought to her attention, a recount was conducted and the counterfoils tallied with the ballots.

The petitioner’s witnesses at the recount did not accept that the recount resolved the issue, the judge noted, adding that the respondents accepted that at the preliminary count when the counterfoils were originally counted they exceeded the ballot by 39.

He said the court had earlier expressed the view that John was a credible witness and on that issue, the court accepted her evidence that a recount was conducted and the counterfoils tallied with the ballots. 

Leon Adams
Neleon Adams was a witness in the North Windward petition. (iWN photo)

The jurist further pointed out that Neleon Adams and Kendall Sandy, who also gave evidence on behalf of the petitioner, testified that at the preliminary count there were 366 votes counted — 141 for NDP, 222 for ULP, two for Green Party, one for Democratic Republican Party and two rejected ballots.

Justice John said this was borne out by Adams’ witness statement.

“That, no doubt, was a direct reference to the number of persons that Adams recorded as having voted on his voter’s list. The final count of voters confirms that the total number of persons who

voted was 366,” he wrote and referenced documents  SSF5, which was annexed to the witness statement of the then Supervisor of Elections, Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb.

“The court was therefore satisfied based on the evidence of Ms. Veronica John, Mr. Adams, Mr. Davis and the Exhibit SSF5, that there were not 39 more counterfoils than ballots. Accordingly, the court dismissed the complaint,” Justice John wrote. 

No recount claim 

Regarding the second complaint, Sutherland’s claim that there was no recount of the ballots on the day after the elections, the judge pointed out that the petitioner claimed that there was no publication of the notice for the final count in breach of Rule 13 (2) of the House of Assembly Election Rules.

He, however, said that the evidence advanced showed indisputably that neither the petitioner nor any of his agents attended the final count. 

Notwithstanding the assertion in his pleadings, no evidence was forthcoming from neither the petitioner nor his agents of the failure to give the requisite notice, the judge said.

He said that Ville Davis, the returning officer, testified that he posted the requisite “Form 6” – a notice indicating the date and location of the final count — at the police station and additionally the “Form 6” was published in the newspapers prior to the election date.

Although Davis was cross-examined, counsel for the petitioner did not challenge his assertion on that issue, the judge found.

He said there was, however, evidence from Sutherland in her witness statement that she saw no “Form 6” as prescribed in the Representation of the People Act advising of the date, place and time of the final count.

Under cross- examination Sutherland admitted, that she did not know what “Form 6” was.

“In fact, it was very hilarious when she said ‘the only Form 6 I know is in school’,” Justice John wrote in his supplemental reasons.

The court was satisfied that there was due notice of the final count in accordance with the RPA, he said, adding that the ground of appeal therefore failed. 

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North Windward resident, Cheryl Sutherland, left, and returning officer for the district, Ville Davis. (iWN photos)

‘cogent, compelling and reliable evidence’ needed 

The petitioner had alleged further that, contrary to Rule 42 (2) (a) of the House of Assembly Election Rules, there was no final count of the votes cast.

The petition claimed that instead of counting the ballots individually, Davis simply accepted the figure written on the envelopes containing the ballots.

Davis gave evidence outlining the procedure followed during the count, saying he counted each ballot and in one instance he even accepted two votes which had been rejected by the presiding officer.

Justice John said the court noted that in giving his evidence in chief, Davis was “at times faltering. He was cross-examined by counsel for the petitioner and maintained his position that there was a final count.”

The judge said the only evidence to the contrary came from Sutherland “whose evidence was, in many instances, contradictory and unreliable”.

The judge noted that Sutherland, in a sworn statement before a notary public on Dec. 14, 2015 stated that she saw “no Form 6”.

Under cross-examination, she admitted having in her possession a copy of her witness statement which she said she had studied the previous day.

Her testimony was consistent with the statement, yet when cross-examined; she denied knowing about “Form 6”, the judge said.

Justice John said that, accordingly, the court was satisfied that there was due notice of the final count in accordance with the RPA.

“It can be inferred from the statement of Ms. Sutherland that she knew what a Form 6 was and was on her guard for such a document, displaying the date, time and place of final count but that she saw none. That, however, was not true having regard for her evidence under cross examination.

The judge said that Sutherland’s estimate is that the process on the day after the election took five hours, less one half-hour break.

But she testified that the process of opening each box, checking the contents and noting the count allegedly written on the envelope took ten minutes each, which meant the entire process took 2 hours and 20 minutes in all, which left a further 2 hours and 10 minutes unaccounted for.

“That contradicted her statement that there was no counting of the ballots,” Justice John said.

“The allegations made in the complaint were extremely serious and therefore warranted cogent, compelling and reliable evidence in support thereof. The evidence of Ms. Sutherland was unsatisfactory, unreliable and very contradictory. In all circumstances, the court rejected the complaint.”

8 replies on “Three months later, judge gives ‘supplemental reasons’ for dismissing petitions”

  1. Vincy Lawyer says:

    Strategy bearing fruit.

    I said ab initio that this move by Delves for the judge to give reasons will be the final nail in the NDPs coffin.

    The likelihood of a successful appeal based on LAW and nothing more is slim or may I dear add: NONEXISTENT!

  2. The only form I know is form 6 in school ………..LML !!!! LMAO!! SMH

    They waited and pursuit this petition all these years to put these ppl on the witness stand on their behalf . SMH …………and these are the ppl that want to takeover leadership of our country ……somebody desperately needs to form a new party with young bright intellectual competent minds to lead this country forward …..and fast because we a few decades behind the rest of the region much less the world .

  3. I beleive Dr. Friday did not want to pursue this petition and I think he was pressured by Mr. Exeter and Mr. Baptiste in doing so .

  4. How does SVG stack up when it comes to the rule of law or the administration of law? There was in this election case allegations of election irregularities which from my reading of the conduct of these affairs, were never properly looked into, if at all. And here is a thing in comparison?

    The French former President Nicolas Sarkozy, is to become the first former President in the history of modern France to be tried for corruption linked to his time in office. The Court of Cassation in Paris on Wednesday 19th June 2019 has so ruled.

    The Court of Cassation rejected his appeal against court action for trying to bribe a then judge while he was in office. Mr Sarkozy, 64, who left office some time ago, is said to have tried to obtain classified legal information from Judge Gilbert Azibert in 2014.

    The judge had information about a criminal investigation into Mr Sarkozy’s alleged acceptance of backhanders from the late Liliane Bettencourt, who was then France’s richest woman. Mr Sarkozy is expected to go on trial ‘in the coming months’ for charges including ‘corruption’, which is punishable for up to 10 years in prison.

  5. He has had plenty of time to come up with reasons that he did not give at the time. This procedure cannot be right. Give anyone several months and they will be able to invent a reasonable story about anything.

    Made, weighed and paid.

  6. U.S. Vincy Boy says:

    You got be kidding me, right? Those of you who are here reading this reasoning and concluding that it solidifies the judge’s decision on the election petition must be part of the machinery to keep my people stupid, shame on you! I am not here for party. I just want to ensure that our election are conducted free and fair. However, based on this judge’s reasonings only add to the controversy of the issue, and make me question the fairness of adjudicating such matter fairly in our judicial system. I will only touch on the issue of judge’s opening reasoning to make my point.

    According to the judge, as set forth in this article, the facts are: There were 39 counterfoils at polling station NW1 for which there were reportedly missing ballot papers unaccounted for. This was bought to the attention of the presiding officer at some point. There was a recount conducted and the counterfoils tallied with the ballots, according to the presiding officer’s testimony. The key here is what was highlighted thereafter. The reasoning states that petitioner’s witnesses at the recount DID NOT accept that the recount resolved the issue (which means there must have been some inconsistency with the recount); adding that the respondents accepted that the PRELIMINARY COUNT when the counterfoils were ORIGINALLY COUNTED exceeded the ballot by 39. WAIT AH MINUTE!!! What this reasoning is basically alluding is that because the respondents accepted the original count and the original count had exceeded the ballot by 39, the respondents can’t now come back and say they don’t accept the recount, even if there may be inconsistencies, simply because they had accepted the original count before. That does not make any sense whatsoever.

    The reasoning then concluded that the court had earlier expressed the view that John (presiding officer) was a credible witness and on that issue, the court accepted her evidence that a recount was conducted and the counterfoils with the ballot. For the love of God, the original count is not what is at issue but the controversial recount and the missing ballots, which the presiding office said were accounted for, but the respondents disagreed. If the case is that presiding officer was correct, why were there ballot missing in the original count but now they are correct in the recount. That does not make sense to me. It also that does not negate the issue of why the respondents had an issue with the recount and how you concluded that the original count was the correct count, even though ballots were missing? This is not right! I truly do hope this case goes through to appeal for the sake of my country. This is the only way the truth will be revealed. Only then would our people open their eyes and see what was before them all along. As for now, this reasoning only adds more controversy to the issue.

  7. Is this late submission of our learned Judge within the Court Rules?

    Just Asking? It does appear to be a little odd some what!

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