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Vaccine 1

The Court of Appeal has set May 2 for the hearing of the appeal in the COVID-19 vaccine mandate case, which was initially scheduled to be heard on Feb. 1.

The earlier  hearing was adjourned after a member of the three-judge panel was unavailable to hear the matter.

Since then, public sector workers who were dismissed under the government’s 2021 COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which the High Court later ruled was illegal, have been awaiting the hearing of the appeal.

On March 13,  2023, High Court judge Justice Esso Henry — who has since been appointed a justice of appeal — delivered what Jomo Thomas, a lawyer for the claimants, described as “the legal equivalent of a slam dunk”.

Henry ruled against the government in all but one aspect of the case, which was sponsored by the Public Service Union, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union and the Police Welfare Association.

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The government appealed the ruling and the hearing was set for Feb. 1 but when the case was called, Justice of Appeal Mario Michel, who was president of the three-member panel — whose other members were Justices of Appeal Trevor Ward and Gerard Farara — said that one of the members of the panel who has been scheduled to hear and determine the matter was unable to sit as part of the panel.

“Accordingly, and regrettably, this matter will be adjourned to a date to be fixed by the chief registrar in consultation with counsel,” Justice Michel said.

He said he wanted to assure the lawyers involved in the matter that the chief registrar would be asked to find the first available date convenient to counsel.

Since then, the parties have been anxiously waiting for a date for the hearing of the appeal.

Thomas confirmed to iWitness News on Friday that parties in the matter were informed that day that the appeal will be heard on May 2, when the Court of Appeal sits in Antigua.

The hearing is slated to take place exactly one month after Elroy Boucher, president of the PSU, expressed concerns about the delay.

Boucher told an April 2 press conference that he had spoken about the delay with  Thomas and fellow counsel in the matter, Shirlan “Zita” Barwelll  and Cara Shillingford Marsh, the lead attorney.

“We were told that they had expected that sometime within the next two months that the matter will come back up. And as you have  said, we’ve not heard anything about it,” Boucher had said then.

“We ourselves, we’re not happy with what has happened, because you get the impression that even the legal fraternity, the  judiciary, they are not having an appreciation for the suffering of the people,” he said. 

“And this is a matter Justice Henry had said that this is a matter that should be expedited as quickly as possible. And that is what she would have done and given her ruling. And now it is before the appeals court, but there seems not to be that sense of urgency and that is quite troubling.”

In announcing the adjournment of the matter, Justice Michel had said that a date for the hearing should be set soonest to avoid any further delay in the hearing of the matter.

“Of course, the court deeply regrets having to take this course of action. We’re assuming that all counsel were in fact ready to proceed with the matter,” he said.

In her March 2023 ruling, Justice Henry held that the public sector workers dismissed under the government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate never ceased to hold their jobs.

She ordered the government to pay them all wages and benefits they would have received had it not been for the government’s decision to terminate them.

The judge further ordered that the government pay punitive damages.

The court has granted a stay of execution of Henry’s judgment, pending the hearing of the appeal.

The claimants were dismissed public sector workers, Shanile Howe, Novita Robert, Cavet Thomas, Alfonzo Lyttle, Brenton Smith, Sylvorne Olliver, Shefflorn Ballantyne, Travis Cumberbatch and Rohan Giles.

The respondents were the Minister of Health and the Environment, the Public Service Commission, the Commissioner of Police, the Attorney General and the Police Service Commission.

Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan, Solicitor General, Karen Duncan Gonsalves, Senior Crown Counsel Cerepha Harper-Joseph, Franeek Joseph, Shernell Hadaway, parliamentary counsel, and Grahame Bollers have appeared for the appellants.

One reply on “Vaccine mandate appeal hearing slated for May 2”

  1. Take. warning says:

    It’s my opinion, that the court should make ar yo compensate all who got sick from adverse reactions and unable to work and also the families of those deceased.

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