Dean Jonas Petitioner v Jacqui Quinn-Leandro Marilyn Simon Lorna Simon The Electoral Commission Respondents [ECSC]

JurisdictionAntigua and Barbuda
CourtHigh Court
JudgeBlenman J
Judgment Date31 March 2010
Judgment citation (vLex)[2010] ECSC J0331-1
Date31 March 2010
Docket NumberCLAIM NO. ANUHCV2009/0141
[2010] ECSC J0331-1

THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN SUPREME COURT

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

CLAIM NO. ANUHCV2009/0141

CLAIM NO. ANUHCV2009/0412

CLAIM NO. ANUHHCV2009/0143

CLAIM NO. ANUHHCV2009/0144

Between:

In the matter of the Representation of the People Act (Cap 379) as amended

And

In the matter of a Parliamentary Election for the Constituency of St. George held on the 12th day of March 2009

Dean Jonas
Petitioner
and
Jacqui Quinn-Leandro
Marilyn Simon
Lorna Simon
The Electoral Commission
Respondents
Between:

In the matter of the Representation of the People Act (Cap 379) as amended

And

In the matter of a Parliamentary Election for the Constituency of St. John's Rural West held on the 12th day of March 2009

St. Clair Simon
Petitioner
and
Winston Baldwin Spencer
George Browne
Lorna Simon
The Electoral Commission
Respondent
Between:

In the matter of the Representation of the People Act (Cap 379) as amended

And

In the matter of a Parliamentary Election for the Constituency of Barbuda held on the 12th day of March 2009

Arthur Manoah Nibbs
Petitioner
and
Trevor Walker
John Jarvis
Lorna Simon
The Electoral Commission
Respondents
Between:

In the matter of the Representation of the People Act (Cap 379) as amended

And

In the matter of a Parliamentary Election for the Constituency of St. John's Rural North held on the 12th day of March 2009

Charles Henry Fernandez
Petitioner
and
John Maginley
Lelia Manwarren
Lorna Simon
The Electoral Commission
Respondents
Appearances:

Mr. James Guthrie, QC, with Ms. Rika Bird and Ms. Samantha Marshall for the Petitioners

Mr. Douglas Mendes, SC, with Mr. Kendrickson Kentish and Mr. Michael Quamina for the First Respondents

Mr. Russell Martineau, SC, with Mrs. Emily Simon-Forde for the Second and Third Respondents

Mr. Anthony Armstrong, DPP, with Mrs. Joanne Walsh, Crown Counsel

INTRODUCTION
Blenman J
1

General elections were held in Antigua and Barbuda on 12th March 2009. Two main parties contested the elections; the United Progressive Party (UPP) led by Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer and the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) led by Mr. Lester Bird. In Barbuda, the contest was between the Barbuda Peoples Movement (BPM) and the ALP. There were seventeen seats that were available in the contest of elections. The UPP was declared the winner of the election and formed the government. The BPM won the single seat in Barbuda. The BPM joined with the UPP.

2

The results in three of the constituencies in Antigua and in the Barbuda constituency are challenged in these election petitions. The Court has been asked to declare the elections void in the constituencies of St. George, St. John's Rural North, St. John's Rural West, and Barbuda. I should say that the original challenge was to the results in six of the constituencies. The additional two constituencies were All Saints West and St. Paul. However, applications were made to this Court to have the latter two petitions struck out. Following hearings on those applications to strike out, this Court ruled that the petitions infringed section 45(1) of theRepresentation of People's Act (as amended) and were invalid. Accordingly, the Court struck out those two petitions. So what is left for decision today is the validity of the elections in the four constituencies first named.

3

For convenience, the Court would refer to the first petition as JONAS PETITION/St. George; the second petition as SIMON PETITION/St. John's Rural West; the third petitionas FERNANDEZ PETITION/St. John's Rural North; and the final petition, NIBBS PETITION/Barbuda.

4

The petitions are of great importance to the State of Antigua and Barbuda. This is very evident in the manner in which all of the Learned counsel approached the petitions, the numerous witnesses who testified on behalf of the parties, the tremendous amount of documentary evidence that was placed before the Court and the very professional manner in which they were dealt with. This was also buttressed by an exceptionally high standard of advocacy in the extensive lucid oral and written submissions by Learned counsel. The Court is acutely aware of the national importance of these petitions. It is apposite for the Court to state that given the national significance of these petitions, the Court had to take great care in ensuring that deliberate consideration was given to them due to far reaching consequences that the decision of the Court could have.

BACKGROUND
The Election Petitions
JONAS PETITION/St. George
5

The first petition concerns the constituency of St. George. The contest here was between Mrs. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro of the UPP and Mr. Dean Jonas of the ALP. At the close of the elections, the Returning Officer declared that Mr. Jonas had received 1,493 of the votes cast and that Ms. Quinn-Leandro had received 1,985 votes. This represented a majority in favour of Ms. Quinn-Leandro of 502. She was therefore declared the winner.

6

Mr. Jonas challenges this result on three grounds. First, that there was a late opening of the polls in breach of the election laws. Secondly, that there was late voting at the polls in violation of the election laws. And thirdly, that the electoral officers failed to use the published Register for Elections but instead used "Photo Lists" in clear breach of the Election laws. He seeks to unseat Mrs. Quinn-Leandro who was declared the winner. As a result of those breaches he contends that the elections were not conducted in substantial compliance with the law and affected the results. He says the election should therefore bedeclared invalid. It is important to note that objection is taken as to whether late polling was a ground alleged in the petition.

7

Mr. Jonas named the following persons as Respondents in his petition. Mrs. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro, the declared winner, as First Respondent; Ms. Marilyn Simon, the Returning Officer for the constituency, as Second Respondent; and Ms. Lorna Simon, the Supervisor of Elections, Chief Registration Officer, and for the purpose of the election, Chief Elections Officer, as Third Respondent.

SIMON PETITION/St. John's Rural West
8

The second petition concerns the constituency of St. John's Rural West. Here the election was fought between Ms. Gail Christian of the ALP and Mr. Winston Baldwin Spencer of the UPP. They were the only two candidates. At the close of the elections the Returning Officer declared that Ms. Christian had received 1753 votes, Mr. Spencer had received 2259 votes. This represented a majority of 506 votes in favour of Mr. Spencer over Ms. Christian. Mr. Spencer was therefore declared the winner.

9

These results are challenged by Mr. St. Clair Simon, an elector entitled to vote in that constituency and who had actually voted. Mr. Simon alleges that there were breaches of the Election law occasioned by the late opening of the poll; the permitting of late voting; and the use of the 'Photo Lists' instead of the published Register for Elections. He seeks to have the election be declared null and void. Here again, the issue of whether late polling was pleaded in the petition arises and the consequent issue of whether Mr. Simon should be permitted to pursue this aspect of his petition.

10

Mr. Simon names the following persons as Respondents. Mr. Spencer, the declared winner, as First Respondent; Mr. George Brown, the Returning Officer, as Second Respondent; and Ms. Lorna Simon, the Supervisor of Elections, Chief Registration Officer; and for the purpose of the election, Chief Elections Officer, as the Third Respondent

11

It bears stating that during the hearing of this petition and in his written submissions Learned Queen's Counsel Mr. Guthrie indicated that Mr. Simon was no longer pursuing the alleged ground of bribery against Mr. Spencer as a basis for voiding the petition.

NIBBS PETITION/ Barbuda
12

The third petition is in relation to Barbuda. The Petitioner, Mr. Arthur Manoah Nibbs, was the ALP candidate for Barbuda. Mr. Trevor Walker was the BPM candidate. Mr. Walker was declared the winner by the returning officer having received 438 votes in comparison to 437 votes. This represents a majority of one (1) vote.

13

Mr. Nibbs challenges this result on several grounds. He contends that there were corrupt practices of bribery and/or undue influence which resulted in Mr. Walker securing the votes. He alleges that there was a breach of the Election law in relation to the counting of the votes. Also, that there were breaches of the Election law insofar that an elector, Ms. Irose Martin, who was entitled to vote was prevented from voting. So too was Mr. Fabian Hunt. As in the other petitions, the complaint here was that the electoral officers failed to utilize the published Register for Elections but instead used the "Photo Lists" in clear breach of the electoral laws.

14

Accordingly, Mr. Nibbs argues that due to the above breaches, either individually or collectively, the elections should be declared invalid. He seeks to unseat Mr. Walker and names him as the First Respondent. He named Mr. John Jarvis, the Returning Officer, as the Second Respondent. Ms. Lorna Simon, the Supervisor of Elections, Chief Registration Officer and Chief Elections Officer was named as the Third Respondent.

FERNANDEZ PETITION/St. John's Rural North
15

The fourth and final petition was brought in respect of the St. John's Rural North constituency. Here the candidates who contested the elections were Mr. Charles Henry Fernandez (ALP) and Mr. John Maginley (UPP). On the completion of the polling the returning officer declared that Mr. Maginley had been duly elected having received 1462votes and that Mr. Fernandez had received 1356 votes. This represented a majority of 106 votes in favour of Mr. Maginley.

16

Mr. Fernandez challenges the results on the grounds that on the day of election the polling stations did not open at 6:00...

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