No court costs for two Barbudans who unsuccessfully fought Privy Council land case

Mackenzie Frank. Trevor Walker
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By Latrishka Thomas

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Two Barbudans who lost their case against the government that claimed Barbudans own land on the sister isle in common have welcomed the fact that they will not be required to pay court costs.

The Privy Council declared in December that there be “no order for costs” in relation to Member of Parliament for Barbuda, Trevor Walker, and current Chairman of the Barbuda Council, Mackenzie Frank.

The pair launched the case against the central government following the passage of the Paradise Found Act 2015 which nullified critical sections of the Barbuda Land Act 2007 that spoke to ownership of land in Barbuda.

Yesterday Mack told Observer he was “pleased” by the decision over costs.

“They recognised that we were doing it in the public interest,” he said.

The case was heard by the London-based court – the twin island nation’s final appellate court – on May 3 2022. At the time, the Privy Council pledged a timely delivery of its judgment on the matter, which has been a weighty political issue for years.

The following month, the court announced it had dismissed Walker and Frank’s claim, saying it had no realistic prospect of succeeding and that the Court of Appeal had been correct to strike it out previously.

In July 2022, the government told the public that the duo may have to fork out EC$141,000 to pay the government’s legal fees.

But attorney Justin Simon QC, who represented Walker and Frank, filed submissions to the Privy Council to have costs waived based on several factors including that “the appellants in the High Court, and their subsequent appeal to the Privy Council, were neither frivolous nor unreasonable given the provisions of section 3 of the Barbuda Land Act 2007”.

Simon’s submission went on to read, “the appellants respectfully pray that the Privy Council exercises its discretion in directing that each party bear their own costs” to “diminish the effect that adverse costs orders would have on litigants seeking to assert constitutional rights” and “give due recognition to the fact that it is the government that bears primary responsibility for ensuring that both the law and the conduct of the state are at all times consistent with the Constitution”.

In a letter dated December 14 2022, the judicial committee of the Privy Council ruled that no costs be ordered.

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