By Kenton X. Chance
History might have been created in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Sunday as the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court sat, in-person, to dispose of a relatively “mundane” traffic matter.
The Sunday sitting was held with the consent of the parties involved, after Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett suggested in January that it might be necessary to facilitate the parties involved.
The case, a civil matter, relates to a claim for damages brought by Esther Harry, a teacher of Harmony Hall, against Ryan Barbour, a Vincentian police officer studying in Russia, and Rent-to-Own, represented by Jorge Da Silva, an account in connection with motor vehicle collision in Arnos Vale on Dec. 11, 2020.
Counsel Ronald Marks appeared for the claimant and Stephen Huggins represented Rent-to-Own, while Barbour represented himself.
The Police Process Office was represented by Corporal Kenroy Martin, who also acted as the technician facilitating Barbour’s virtual appearance before the court, and Auxiliary Police Constable Jozico Ash.
An unidentified woman sat in the public gallery of the court during the trial.
As the hearing commenced, Burnett noted that the court was sitting on a Sunday, when some of the people present “perhaps should have been resting, some of us perhaps should have been in church, some of us could have been watching that boring test match, West Indies scoring at one point something an over”.
He said that on Jan. 12, the civil matter was before the court and the parties present were trying to get a date for hearing.
“One of the parties, Mr. Barbour, is in Russia at this time and we were having a difficulty scheduling the matter to accommodate him,” the magistrate said.
“So, I think perhaps I was the one who threw out a possible hearing on a Sunday. And the parties who were present at the time took me up on it and agreed to do the matter on Sunday.”
He said that, unfortunately, neither Mr. Da Silva nor Mr. Huggins were present.
“… and for that, I apologise,” Burnett said, adding, “I know the bailiff served Mr. Da Silva on Friday and the feedback I got was that he should have been resting”.
He said he was happy that Da Silva was present and apologised to Huggins who came in “at short notice as well”.
Burnett said he likes to speak frankly on matters and commented that he knew he was not going to get an employee of a magistrate’s court to be there.
“I know that was not going to happen. So, when I was told on Friday that no employee of the court was going to come, I said, ‘I didn’t expect any staff member to come. Once I am here and I have access to the building, we will do the matter.’”
“So, I apologise to the parties who have been inconvenienced but we are only here by consent,” Burnett said.
“Access to justice is not really a concept we speak about. It is a real issue we have to address from time to time. I am happy that the parties have made the sacrifice to be here so that we can at least allow Mr. Barbour and Mr. Da SiIva who are defendants and importantly, Ms. Harry, the one who has triggered the legal system, to have this matter disposed of by the court.”
The magistrate emphasised that the Sunday court sitting is not something that would happen “every day”.
“It might happen once in a lifetime or once in the lifetime of this magistrate for sure. I am not about to set a precedent. This one just has to happen today.”
When asked if he had anything to say to the court about being there on a Sunday morning, Da Silva said no, adding that he was fine.
Meanwhile, Huggins, told the court that he was pleased to be there “not because it is setting a new trend but certainly because justice will finally be done in this matter and we will get it out of the way”.
The magistrate said that was the main reason why he was there.
The court reserved its decision in the matter, the parties having come upon a ticklish issue relating to who has liability in the matter in light of the ownership status of one of the vehicles involved in the accident.