Judicial review into land grab commission never heard due to judges’ conflicts
An application for a judicial review into the legitimacy of a Commission of Inquiry into land grabs could not be heard – because the island’s civil court judges were conflicted.
Raymond Davis, also known as Khalid Wasi, said the failure to find an impartial judge to hear his case demonstrated that the justice system was “in a deplorable state and seems to act against natural justice”.
He added: “It caters to the strong institutions, even government, and needs an independent review of its deficiencies.”
Mr Davis and Myron Piper filed the application for a judicial review over concerns that the Commission of Inquiry into Historic Land Losses was a sham and that commissioners had failed to act impartially.
The application was filed in January. Normally, such applications are treated urgently and a date for a review is arranged within days.
Mr Piper and Mr Davis filed a complaint with the Ombudsman after two months had elapsed without hearing anything.
They finally received an e-mail from Court Registrar Alexandra Wheatley at the end of March.
Ms Wheatley explained that three judges had looked at the application and concluded that they could not hear it because they were all conflicted.
She added that an assistant justice – Jeffrey Elkinson – had been identified who would look at the merits of the application and hear it if it went ahead.
But Mr Piper and Mr Davis opposed the appointment and claimed that Mr Elkinson was also conflicted.
Ms Wheatley said in her e-mail: “I apologise for any difficulties you may have experienced in receiving a response on the status of this matter.
“In addition to the normal processing time, we have had to secure an assistant justice to deal with your matters as all the judges in the civil/commercial section of the Supreme Court are conflicted.
“This process required three Justices to review the file in the first instance to make the determination he or she is conflicted which would also add to processing time.“
Mr Davis wrote to Rena Lalgie, the Governor, to ask for Mr Elkinson’s appointment to be blocked.
It is understood that Mr Elkinson has since recused himself from the case.
Mr Davis said he would apply to the Governor through Chief Justice Narinder Hargun to request that a judge from the UK be brought in to hear the judicial review application.
He added that he hoped that, once his complaint was heard, the findings of the CoI would be quashed and a Royal Commission appointed to carry out a second inquiry into land grabs.
He said: “The recently published CoI report has some significant mistruths, which need to be addressed publicly.”
Mr Davis added that he had researched cases of land theft and had been willing to provide details to the commission, but was turned down.
He said: “All this information is available publicly if the research is done. Why did the COI not do that research? Why did they hire investigators and were they qualified in land title research?
“The CoI began with suitably qualified title researchers then got rid of them for two ex-police officers with questionable property experience.”
Mr Davis listed factual errors which were “significant enough to show the inaccuracy within the report and bias by which the CoI operated”.
He said: “The commissioners and their investigators behaved more like politicians with a bias than impartial investigators uncovering facts.“
“The only recourse to rectify this erroneous information is through a judicial review.
“There are other issues, too numerous to mention, where it may be the best recommendation to quash the entire report as is and appeal to the Crown to have a full, impartial Royal Commission.
“If we can recall when the Governor refused assent, it was because he had asked whether there was merit or enough complaints to warrant a commission. It’s fair to say that now we know.”