straight to the point – from different points of view

THA – a chronology of contempt for the courts

THA – a chronology of contempt for the courts

The THA doesn’t hold back when it sets out to break laws and thumb its nose at the judiciary. In this long running (seven years) saga of lawlessness through the courts over the Charlotteville Mall, THA has maintained a resolute position of disregard for the rulings of judges and commitments it made along the way. The construction of the Mall in defiance of the orders I previously quoted for you is the proud standard bearer of their contempt. But their contempt and defiance runs deep and consistently throughout the seven years. Here are some of the high(?) points.

It all started in 2013. THA wrote to existing vendors on Bay Street stating that they were about to commence construction of a vendors mall and that all would be required to move to some temporary accommodation that they (THA) would provide. Mr Hercules wrote to them in response seeking clarification about rights, permissions, ownership etc. He received no answer.

Totally disregarding his letters, THA began preparatory work including demolition of some of the other vendors’ booths. He therefore applied to the court for judicial review of the decision to undertake the construction on a number of grounds. The first of the grounds was the failure of THA to obtain, and in the case of the EMA, to even apply for requisite planning permission.

At the hearing the judge noted that adequate authorities had not been obtained by the THA from the relevant agencies. As a consequence he ordered all work including preparatory work to cease until such authorities were presented to him. He noted that the other issues raised by the complainant remained open and would not be addressed until the approvals were satisfactorily presented to the court. I repeat, he ordered the IMMEDIATE cessation of work.

In their first act of defiance of the court, THA continued their preparatory work for a full week thereafter. A complaint to the police by Mr Hercules resulted in a demand that he return to court to obtain a stamped copy of the order before they could take action against THA.

At the next hearing the judge was not pleased to hear that his order had been ignored for an entire week and he castigated the lead THA attorney reminding him that notice to the attorney is treated as notice to the client. Their claim that the client (THA) did not get the message was dismissed by the judge in clear language.

At that hearing THA still had not provided the approvals sought by the court. The court extended more time to them in order to comply. In the meantime the stay against construction continued. This process was repeated several times during the first few months during which time EMA records showed that no application had been submitted to them by THA.

At the start of this period, THA had dug a massive trench about eight feet deep. It rapidly filled with water and became a breeding ground for mosquitoes at a time when dengue fever was in the news. Mr Hercules complained to THA about it to no avail. It was then raised at the next court hearing whereupon the judge ordered the THA to eliminate the health hazard that it posed. Once again THA ignored the order and returned at the following sitting of the court having failed to take remedial action.

Eventually, at yet another hearing THA brought along an engineer who went on record to say that he would be responsible for dealing with the fetid pool of stagnant water in a manner to the satisfaction of the court. True to form, the THA engineer turned up on three occasions in the first week, never to be seen again. More disregard and contempt for the orders of the judge.

After four hearings, the judge became exasperated with the THA returning to court and wasting everyone’s time while failing to provide the approvals as demanded. The judge in the order I quoted in a previous article made the stay permanent until such time as the THA filed the necessary documents. This was clearly a more hard line position than previously was the case, or so it would appear to most reasonable people. Remember that the approvals were only the first part of the submission to the courts and the other issues would only be ventilated after THA cleared this first hurdle.

Arrogant as ever, THA filed a set of documents several months later that they claimed met the judge’s stipulations. A cursory examination by any fair minded person would have shown them to be woefully inadequate. Nevertheless, THA determined that the new documents met the standard required by the judge and resumed construction on that basis. In practical terms, they decided that the final termination of the project under the order gave them, the THA, the authority to determine what constituted adequate approvals. Unable to fund further court action, Mr Hercules was forced to see THA continue their unlawful construction activity on the Mall in clear contempt for the judge’s ruling.

At this stage we have already had the THA blatantly disregarding three orders by the judge:

  • Continuation of work for a week after the first order
  • Failure to act in order to rectify the health problem caused by the open trench
  • Resumption of work without proper approvals

Yet we continue. Already acting against the judge’s order to provide necessary approvals before work could be resumed, they then proceeded to act against the other aspect of the original order. They had been explicitly prohibited from demolishing the booth from which Mr Hercules operated his business. Early one morning, a THA works crew arrived with a backhoe and trucks and demolished the premises. They did this with the active support of a contingent of police in unmarked uniforms and who refused to identify themselves. There was no bailiff or Court Order to support the activity.

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I digress: A subsequent complaint to the police about their involvement resulted in Snr Sup Nelson publicly (on Channel 5) announcing an inquiry into their role. Despite several letters from Mr Hercules and myself to the police they have failed to proceed with the investigation and to give any explanation for that failure. This was all before the tenure of the current Commissioner.

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As fate would have it, Mr Hercules had also applied for adverse possession of the land on which he had plied his trade for decades. He was thankfully successful in that action. In the course of his deliberations on the adverse possession claim, the judge made very clear that the THA had not met the conditions laid down by the first judge. In plain language, here was a judge saying that the ongoing construction work was against the previous judge’s order. All doubt or room for interpretation was now removed.

Yet they pressed on, this time with a fourth disregard for a judge’s order. In the meantime though, they managed to achieve a fifth. As part of the adverse possession order, the judge instructed the THA to return Mr Hercules’ possessions that had been removed during the unlawful demolition. Few would imagine that such a simple order would be defied but this is the THA. They failed to return his possessions and it took a stern repeat of that order from the court at its next sitting before it was obeyed.

There is no way to sugar coat this. THA has left no room for doubt. From the beginning to the present they have treated the judges as lesser mortals, just as they have treated their citizens and all authority figures. They must be made to pay a price for this as they will surely take us further down this deep dark hole if they escape unscathed.

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