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Lawyer: Commission of Inquiry on land loss acted properly

A lawyer for the Commission of Inquiry which began hearings in 2020 to examine historical land loss in Bermuda insisted yesterday that the body did not make a mistake when it changed its own terms of reference.

Delroy Duncan, KC, made the argument as the case over legal disputes that stemmed from the CoI opened in the Court of Appeal.

The court is hearing legal actions launched by Myron Piper and Raymond Davis – who also goes by the name Khalid Wasi – against the CoI, as well as David Burt, the Premier.

The court is also presiding over action launched by the commission against Mr Piper and Mr Davis.

The commission was established in 2019 to examine historical thefts of property and to “identify any persons, whether individuals or bodies corporate, responsible for such historic losses of citizens’ property”.

Mr Davis and Mr Piper had argued successfully before Assistant Justice Hugh Southey that the commission acted illegally when it denied them the chance to testify before it.

Mr Justice Southey ruled in August 2022 that the commission “misdirected itself” when it limited the scope of its remit and subsequently refused to hear testimony from at least one of the complainants.

Shortly after convening, the seven-member panel drew up its own terms of reference, redefining what cases it would investigate.

According to Mr Davis — who submitted two complaints to the commission alleging that he lost property through unethical, systemic and irregular practices — the commission breached its own authority with the move.

However, Mr Duncan argued yesterday: “We contend that the Commission of Inquiry approached the task of interpreting the word ‘irregular’ by reference to the historic losses of property.”

He told the court that the commission interpreted of “irregular” to mean, as spelt out in its mandate, that “land was lost”.

He added: “Our case is that the Commission of Inquiry did not misdirect itself.”

Mr Duncan argued that “the commission does have authority and it must exercise its functions to determine what claims are to be accepted and what claims are to be rejected”.

In his August 2022 ruling, Mr Justice Southey agreed with Mr Davis and Mr Piper that the CoI had acted outside its authority.

The judge said: “I have also concluded that the commission misdirected itself about the scope of that commission in a way that was potentially material in the case of Mr Davis. There was illegality in the handling of your case.”

The case continues today before Court of Appeal President Sir Christopher Clarke, with judges Sir Anthony Smellie and Ian Kawaley.

• It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases.