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Brown to sue over Pati ‘slip’

Magistrates Court (photo by Glenn Tucker)

Progressive Labour Party MP Walton Brown has been given the go-ahead to sue Craig Cannonier for revealing that he submitted a Pati request.

Justice Stephen Hellman told Mr Brown at a Supreme Court hearing that he has “an arguable case” against Mr Cannonier and Public Works civil servants, which would proceed to trial.

Mr Brown’s civil lawsuit follows comments made by Mr Cannonier, the Minister for Public Works, while answering parliamentary questions about stones taken from Blackwatch Pass in May last year.

In his response to the House of Assembly, Mr Cannonier disclosed that Mr Brown had submitted a Public Access to Information request on the issue.

The Pati Act states that the identity of a person who makes a request for information under the legislation must remain confidential.

In April this year, the Opposition backbencher launched a civil action against the minister, the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Public Works, the Cabinet service executive and the Cabinet secretary over the error.

At court on Wednesday, Shakira Dill-Francois, representing the Ministry of Public Works and the other parties, argued that Pati does not provide for a private law cause of action.

But Mr Justice Hellman ruled that Mr Brown, who is representing himself, had an arguable case and the matter should proceed to trial.

“There are arguable questions about how this Act works,” Mr Justice Hellman said. “Mr Brown, you have an arguable case of a breach of a statutory duty under the Pati Act, in that section 12 provides the identity of a requester remains confidential.

“I am satisfied there is an arguable case with respect to the leaking to the minister, and I am satisfied there is an arguable case with respect the minister using that material in Parliament.”

At the time of the incident the PLP described the error as “disconcerting” given that ministers are not involved in the Pati process.

A party statement suggested that Mr Cannonier would have had to have been informed of the identity of the requester by someone else in the ministry.

Mr Cannonier later apologised, saying the incident was an honest mistake.

A date for the trial will be set in due course.

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