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Election Petitions Withdrawn!
Office of the AG
After filing of Applications to Strike Out!
On Thursday 16th July, the Attorney General’s Chambers filed Notices of Application on behalf of the Supervisor of Elections, the Returning Officers and Registration Officers named in the six Election Petitions, to Strike Out the Petitions brought by the Labour Candidates in the June 5th , 2020 General Elections. The Supervisor of Elections swore affidavits in support of the applications.
In the Notices of Application filed on behalf of the Supervisor of Elections, Returning Officers and Registration Officers the Applicants asked the Court to strike out the Petitions or in the alternative dismiss the Petitions or remove the Applicants as parties to the Petitions. The Applicants also asked that the Petitioners pay the costs of the application.
The primary ground of the application to strike out was the Petitioners failure to comply with Rule 9 of the Election Petition Rules. Rule 9(1) requires that at the time of the presentation of the petition, or within three days afterwards, security for the payment of all costs, charges and expenses that may become payable by the petitioner, shall be given by the petitioner. Rule 9(4) provides that that within three days after the giving of security, notice of the nature of the security given shall be served by the petitioner on the respondent. In all the petitions before the Court, the Petitioners failed to serve the Respondents with the notice of the nature of security as provided by Rule 9.
The Election Petition Rules SR&O 4 of 2014 were published in St. Kitts and Nevis by the Honourable Chief Justice, Dame Janice Pereira DBE, LL.D, in 2014. The Election Petition Rules are strictly construed and applied. This is based on the need for a speedy determination of election petitions in the public interest, so that persons returned as legislators and the electorate would know quickly whether the persons returned have been lawfully elected. Thus, the failure to comply with Rule 9 by serving the nature of security on the Respondents in the time stipulated by the Election Petition Rules was fatal to the Petitions.
Further in relation to the Petitions brought by Ms. Marcella Liburd, Mr. Steve Wrensford, Mr Kenneth Douglas and Mr. Leon Natta-Nelson no specific allegations of wrongdoing were made against the Supervisor of Elections and the Returning Officers. The Applicants also sought to have the Petitions struck out or in the alternative the Supervisor and Returning Officers removed as parties to the Petition on this ground.
Similar applications to strike were also filed on behalf of Elected Representatives Hon Shawn Richards, Hon. Lindsay Grant, Hon Akilah Nisbett and Hon Eugene Hamilton and the 7th Respondent, Mr. Jason Hamilton, former Attorney General and member of the Electoral Commission nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the two matters in which he was named as a Respondent. The applications on behalf of the Elected Representatives were filed by the law firm of Byron & Byron and the application on behalf of Mr. Hamilton was filed by the law firm Dublin and O’Brien.
On Friday 17th July, Resident High Court Judge, His Lordship Justice Trevor M. Warde QC gave directions for the Petitioners to file responses to the applications to strike out and adjourned the matters to Friday 31st July. On Friday 31st July, at approximately 8.50am, ten minutes before the 9.00am start of the adjourned hearing, the Petitioners filed their response in the form of a Notice in each of the six (6) Election Petitions. Each Notice stated simply that “…the Petitioner intends to file an Application in Form 10 to withdraw the Petition pursuant to section 13 of the National Assembly Petition Rules.”
At the Hearing on 31st July, His Lordship Justice Trevor M. Warde QC adjourned the matters for seven (7) days to the 6th August to facilitate the publication of the Applications for Leave to Withdraw the Petitions in the Official Gazette and the newspapers. The Notices were subsequently published in the Official Gazette and the Democrat Newspaper. The matter was heard on August 21, 2020 when the Petitioners were granted leave by the Court to withdraw the Petitions. The matter is now set for October 7th, 2020 for the hearing of submissions in relation to costs.