Agar’s Island dispute in court
A computing tycoon’s widow is “in limbo” because of uncertainty over a government decision on her application to own the island she shared with her husband, a court heard yesterday.
Michael Fordham, an English QC, told the civil division of Supreme Court that Lillian Martin’s health had been affected by a five-year delay on a ministry ruling on Agar’s Island, a “haven” and where her daughter was married. He was speaking after an application for judicial review was called yesterday.
Lawyers for Ms Martin, widowed in 2013 when her husband, James, drowned aged 79, earlier filed a motion to ask for a decision on her application for a licence to acquire Agar’s Island, off Point Shares, Pembroke, where the couple had made their home.
They also asked for an order or declaration that a licence would be granted, or compensation paid as an alternative.
But government lawyers, acting for the respondent, the Minister of National Security, claimed yesterday that there were suspicions that parts of Bermuda’s immigration law had been breached.
Mr Fordham told the court that Ms Martin, an American, applied in July 2014 for a licence she needed as a restricted person under the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act to acquire the freehold to Agar’s Island, where she had lived with her English-born husband since 2000.
Dr Martin, a world-renowned IT innovator, entered a sale and purchase agreement for the island in 1997 and occupied it under lease from the Bermuda Transportation Co until a licence could be secured.
Mr Fordham highlighted written evidence from Ms Martin. He said: “She is in limbo, that’s her word, and she is suffering, that’s my word, the serious impact and implications of the position that she is in.”
He added: “Agar’s Island is a place of peace and contemplation. It was a haven and it still is.
“They turned it from a place of rocky isolation to a place of blossoming treasure where they lived together, where Mrs Martin, who sits behind me, witnessed the marriage of her daughter, Leila, who sits behind her in court, and it was the place where Dr Martin sadly drowned on his daily swim six years and one week ago.
“As she tells you, it is troubling and upsetting, causing a serious impact to her state of mind and indeed her health to have her application dealt with in the way that it has been. And she tells you how hard it would be for her to leave ‘at my age’, in case you haven’t picked her up, she is 77, 78 later this month.”
Lauren Sadler-Best, of the Attorney-General’s Chambers and for the national security minister, said that “it is the case that the facts point to the possibility that there is a breach of section 78 and section 81” of the Immigration and Protection Act
The two sections deal with the appropriation of land through the assumption of ownership rights by a restricted person and participation in a scheme that allowed a restricted person or trustee to hold, acquire or appropriate land in contravention of the legislation.
But Mr Fordham told the court: “Does an arrangement by means of a sale and purchase agreement by which a restricted person will obtain the freehold only on obtaining a licence breach the legislation? Of course it doesn’t.”
The hearing, before Assistant Justice Ian Kawaley, continues.
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