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Supreme Court tells legislature to park it over Sessions House car spaces row

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Park it: a row is ongoing over parking spaces at Sessions House (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Supreme Court is demanding justice from Parliament in a row between the two branches of government about parking rights at Sessions House.

The Parliamentary House and Grounds Committee is involved in a spat with the Registrar for the Courts regarding how many car bays the judiciary can retain at the site.

Derrick Burgess, Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, and chairman of the committee, insists the Supreme Court must cut the existing number of spaces it uses from six to three as an audit of parking is conducted.

However, e-mails seen by The Royal Gazette show Alexandra Wheatley, Registrar for the Courts, has hit back at the demands to return three electronic “clickers” that allow access to the lot.

In correspondence with the Deputy Speaker, Ms Wheatley pointed out that the Supreme Court is an equal arm of government to the legislature, which has up to 50 parking bays for MPs and parliamentary staff at Sessions House.

In one e-mail, dated January 17, seen by The Royal Gazette, Mr Burgess said: “Ms Wheatley, this is the third and final time we are asking you to return all clickers to Sgt Major [Arnold] Allen asap.”

The next day, the Deputy Speaker wrote: “Ms Wheatley, there are only 3 clickers/parking lots total available to the court … again, I am asking that all clickers, including yours, be returned immediately.”

However, Ms Wheatley insisted that the committee was being “unfair” in the way it was treating the Supreme Court and had not consulted the body regarding the changes, or an audit of parking spaces.

Alexandra Wheatley, Registrar for the Courts of Bermuda (File Photograph)

Ms Wheatley said the Chief Justice, Narinder Hargun, had proposed Justice Larry Mussenden to represent the Supreme Court in a possible meeting with House of Assembly Speaker, Dennis Lister, and Mr Burgess to try and resolve the matter.

In an e-mail to Mr Burgess, dated January 18, the Registrar stated: “I do not understand the reason for that reduction and you and/or the committee have not provided a reason for the reduction. We welcome such explanation or reason.

“Further, you and/or the committee have not asked the Chief Justice or me for our input in respect of any change to the number of designated spaces.

“It seems entirely unfair to the process to make changes to the designated number of parking spaces even before the audit is completed or before you consider our position.

“Also, we query the need to hand in 3 of 6 clickers for the purpose of an audit.“

Two of the disputed parking spaces at Sessions House (Photograph by Shaun Connolly)

The email continued: “It is clear that the majority of the parking spaces in Sessions House grounds are allocated to the Members of Parliament and probably some to staff of the legislature, in total probably about 45-50 parking spaces.

“On the contrary, the Supreme Court has a demonstrably small number of parking spaces in Sessions House that is six spaces.

“Therefore, it appears that as equal branches of government, we should share the resources, including parking spaces, on a rational and fair basis. The six parking spaces are suitable for our needs and more than fair in all the circumstances.

“Therefore, we respectfully do not agree with a reduction in parking spaces.”

Ms Wheatley said the six parking spaces were for, the Chief Justice, Justice Shade Subair Williams, Mr Justice Mussenden, herself, the Deputy Registrar and the court car, which is also known as a government car.

The Registrar pointed out that two of the three disputed spaces had Supreme Court signs on them and were assigned when the court left its Front Street site.

Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly and chairman of the Parliamentary House and Grounds Committee (File photograph)

The Deputy Speaker said that the spaces for the Chief Justice and the two other judges would remain available.

Ms Wheatley stated that she had discovered three clickers which had been given to court staff on top of the six others and she was willing to hand those three back.

Mr Burgess said he had no comment on the matter when approached by The Royal Gazette.

Ms Wheatley has been contacted regarding the matter.

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Published January 27, 2023 at 10:18 am (Updated January 27, 2023 at 10:18 am)

Supreme Court tells legislature to park it over Sessions House car spaces row

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