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Judge turns back businessman’s challenge

Frustrated businessman: Harold Darrell

Bermudian businessman Harold Darrell has again lost a legal fight to have allegations of racial discrimination by a local bank investigated.

Mr Darrell had filed a lawsuit against the Human Rights Commission on the basis that it had not properly dealt with his complaint.

In the most recent legal action, Mr Darrell argued his human rights claim was unlawfully dismissed through “acts of malfeasance and misfeasance” by the HRC and its executive officer.

But the HRC applied for the case to be dismissed as “hopeless” or “otherwise frivolous and vexatious”.

Assistant Justice David Kessaram ruled that Mr Darrell’s case as presented could not succeed.

Among his findings were that the HRC was not a “person in law” who could sue or be sued, but instead a group of appointed individuals.

He added that too much time had passed for the court to take action.

Mr Justice Kessaram said: “These allegations refer to events that occurred prior to the Board of Inquiry’s written decision on April 17, 2007 dismissing the complaint.

“Even if the acts and omissions of the members of the HRC or the body as a whole can properly be described as acts of misfeasance any action for a remedy based on such acts would be time-barred now.”

The decision was the latest in a series of legal actions launched by Mr Darrell related to his complaint that the Bank of Bermuda discriminated against him based on his race.

Mr Darrell has alleged that, in 1996, the bank leaked confidential information about the state of his loans, which he said cost him a $3.2 million business deal.

He subsequently said his complaints to the bank were not properly dealt with because of institutional racism, leading him to lodge a complaint with the HRC against the bank’s chief executive and board of directors.

The Human Rights Board was convened in 2005, but dismissed the complaint in 2006.

A written decision released the next year stated that while the bulk of submissions related to institutional racism at the bank, the bank itself was not a party to proceedings.

He has since launched a series of unsuccessful actions to have his complaints investigated.

Mr Justice Kessaram commented in his ruling: “It is a lamentable fact that to this day — some 18 years after making his formal complaint to the HRC — Mr Darrell has not had his complaint against the bank properly investigated by a Board of Inquiry convened under the Human Rights Act 1981.

“It is not the purpose of this ruling to explain why Mr Darrell has not been able to obtain the redress he seeks.

“The application before the court on which this ruling is given is an application to strike out this claim as disclosing no reasonable cause of action and for other reasons.

“I am only concerned with determining whether this action should be allowed to proceed to trial with the consequential expenditure of time and legal costs that the defendant will be put to in defending the claim, or whether it ought to be dismissed without a full trial on the grounds that the case is a hopeless one or is otherwise frivolous or vexatious or an abuse of the process of the court.”

Mr Justice Kessaram concluded that the claims against the HRC were bound to fail, and struck out the writ.

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