Lennox Linton Claimant v Maureen Hyman "Chief Magistrate Ag., District "A", St John's Attorney General (Antigua and Barbuda) Defendants [ECSC]

JurisdictionAntigua and Barbuda
CourtHigh Court (Antigua)
JudgeBlenman J,
Judgment Date17 August 2006
Judgment citation (vLex)[2006] ECSC J0817-2
Docket NumberANUHCV 2006/0038
Date17 August 2006
[2006] ECSC J0817-2

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

ANUHCV 2006/0038

Between:
Lennox Linton
Claimant
and
Maureen Hyman "Chief Magistrate Ag., District "A", St John's
The Attorney General (Antigua and Barbuda)
Defendants
Appearances:

Mr. Dane Hamilton Snr for the Claimant

Ms. Bridget Nelson, Senior Crown Counsel and Mrs. Carla Brooks-Harris Crown Counsel1 for the Defendants

1

Blenman J, These are Judicial Review Proceedings to quash the decision of the Acting Chief Magistrate and to prohibit the Acting Chief Magistrate from the further hearing of a matter. Application is also made to have the matter stayed on the basis that there is an abuse of process.

Background
2

Mr. Lennox Linton (Mr. Linton) who is the Station Manager of the Observer Radio Station was charged on 3 complaints filed by the then Director of Public Prosecutions (ag.)(then DPP ag.) Mr. Gene Pestaina in relation to words he is alleged to have spoken about Mr. Pestaina and the Office of the DPP.

3

The then DPP (ag.) summoned Mr. Linton before the Magistrates Court to answer three complaints including that on the 16 th day of September 2005, Mr. Linton published a defamatory statement contrary to section 11 of the Libel and Slander Act Cap 248 Laws of Antigua and Barbuda (Libel and Slander Act).

4

The genesis of the criminal summonses is said to be comments that Mr. Linton is alleged to have made on a radio programme "Wake up Call" in relation to Mr. Gene Pestaina in his capacity as DPP.

5

For his part, Mr. Linton says he was merely reviewing the lead story " DPP v. Observer appearing in a daily newspaper the Antigua Sun. The sub headline was "Pestaina says RADIO MANAGER RUDE."

6

Mr. Linton states that the then DPP (ag.) was reported to have had an interview with a newsperson and is alleged to have said that he (Mr. Linton) had verbally ridiculed his Office on air and had entertained calls from person who made a mockery of his Office.

7

The then DPP (ag.) was further reported to have said "so to ask whether the DPP has gone to sleep is a malicious innuendo. It is dangerous and it is trying to put the DPP in a bad light in the public."

8

Further the then DPP (ag.) was reported in the newspaper article to have said "most definitely, most definitely, there has got to be a stop to this nonsense."

9

Mr. Linton advanced the view that he has not committed the offences for which he has been summoned since he merely stated that "Now if Mr. Pestaina considers this to be rude, if he considers this to be inciting public mischief, Mr. Pestaina is clearly entitled to his opinion, he is certainly not going to provoke me into commenting whether his piece in the Sun Newspaper suggests anything about his suitability for the post of DPP. He is not going to do that at all." It was after this that he was summoned by the then DPP (ag) to appear before the Acting Chief Magistrates on the three complaints.

10

Mr. Linton alleges that on 28 th September 2003 he appeared before the Acting chief Magistrate and his Counsel Mr. Dane Hamilton Snr made submissions on his behalf, namely: "that the complaints disclosed no offence on the record, that the offences were duplicitous and that the offences should have been particularized.

11

On 26 th October 2005, Mr. Hugh Marshall, Attorney-at-Law who appeared on behalf of the then DPP (ag.) replied to the submissions made on behalf of Mr. Linton, and asserted that Mr. Linton's application was premature. The Acting Chief Magistrate, Mr. Linton further alleges, heard replies from Mr. Hamilton and reserved decision.

12

On 8 th December 2005, Mr. Linton complains that, the Acting Chief Magistrate ruled "Submissions denied matter to proceed to trial", and gave no reasons for her ruling. The date for the hearing of the complaints was set.

13

Mr. Linton applied and was granted leave to file Judicial Review proceedings. He filed his claim together with an affidavit in support in which he chronicled the circumstances of the charges against him and the hearing in the magistrate's court.

14

Mr. Linton seeks a number of reliefs the main ones include the following:

  • (a) An Order of the Court quashing the decision of the Acting Chief Magistrate;

  • (b) An Order prohibiting the Acting Chief Magistrate from further hearing of the matter;

  • (c) The staying the proceedings in the lower Court as an abuse of the Court's process occasioned by the alleged bias of the then DPP (ag.).

15

Mr. Pestaina who now holds the office of Senior Crown Counsel in the DPP's Chambers deposed to an affidavit on behalf of the defendants and admitted that in his capacity as then DPP (ag) he caused three charges to be laid against Mr. Linton under the Libel and Slander Act.

16

Mr. Pestaina stated that it was his considered view that the statements made by Mr. Linton were intended to generate in the general public a lack of confidence in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Further the statements were intended/calculated to undermine the Office of DPP and they were intended to make the general public ridicule him. He was of the opinion that the statements violated section 11 of the Libel and Slander Act and filed complaints/summonses against Mr. Linton.

17

Mr. Pestaina both in his affidavit and under cross examination by learned counsel Mr. Dane Hamilton denied that he was motivated by personal bias or ill will against Mr. Linton in instituting the criminal charges against Mr. Linton.

18

Mr. Pestaina further opined that in his view the Acting Chief Magistrate considered the objections that were advanced on behalf of Mr. Linton and the reply put forward on his (Mr. Pestaina's) behalf and ruled in accordance with law.

19

In his affidavit in response, by Mr. Pestaina further stated that based on the events that occurred he was of the honest view that they were designed by Mr. Linton to undermine the integrity of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and ultimately the administration of justice in Antigua and Barbuda.

Issues
20

The following issues arise to be resolved by the Court.

  • (a) Whether the Court should grant certiorari;

  • (b) Whether the Court should prohibit the Acting Chief Magistrate from further hearing of the matter;

  • (c) Whether the Court should stay the proceedings on the basis that it is an abuse of process

Certiorari
Mr. Linton's Submissions
21

Learned Counsel Mr. Dane Hamilton, on behalf of Mr. Linton stated that he had submitted in the lower Court that the no offence was disclosed on the face of the complaints and that the statements which Mr. Linton was alleged to have made were not defamatory on the face. In order to ground the offence thereby giving the Magistrate jurisdiction to hear the complaints the statements must be defamatory within the meaning of section 11 of the Libel and Slander Act.

22

Mr. Hamilton said that the preliminary point that the charges were bad for duplicity and should be dismissed was also canvassed before the magistrate. The Acting Chief Magistrate heard extensive submissions from both sides and ruled "submissions denied trial to proceed". The magistrate provided no reasons for her decision. It was this failure, argued Learned Counsel Mr. Hamilton which necessitated the Court quashing the magistrate's decision. There is no disputing, he said that the magistrate was under a duty to provide reasons for her decisions.

23

Mr. Hamilton stated that the High Court has inherent jurisdiction to review the proprietory of the decision making processes of Magistrates Court. The Court has the power to quash a decision which in its lack of merit becomes unreasonable. In support of this contention Mr. Hamilton relied on Chief Constable for North Wales Police v Evans [1982] 3 ALL ER 141.

24

Mr. Hamilton further submitted that an applicant could challenge a Magistrate's Court decision for error of law/procedural improprietary, unreasonableness and unfairness. He cited R v. Hereford Magistrate Court exp Rowlands [1997] 2 WLR 854 in support of his argument that the Court should quash the decision of the Acting Chief Magistrate.

25

Mr. Hamilton further stated that while the legal rule is that a professional judge as a rule provides reasons for his or her decision, it is not every decision taken by a Magistrate which would require reason. It all depends on the gravity of the matter and the legal arguments placed before the Magistrate. However, in the case at Bar procedural fairness required the Magistrate to give reasons See: R v Crown Court at Harrow exparte Dave (1994) 1 All ER 315 and Flannery v Halifax Estate Agencies Ltd (2000) 1 ALL ER 377

26

In Flannery v Halifax Estate Agenciesibid at p 377 Henry LJ stated at paragraph d – e that

"Today's professional judge owes a general duty to give reasons is clear (See: R v Crown Court at Knightsbridge, ex p International Sporting Club (London) Ltd [1981] 3 ALL ER 417, [1982] QB 304), although there are some exceptions. It does not always or even usually apply in the magistrates' court, nor in some areas where the court's decision is more often than not a summary exercise of discretion in particular orders for costs. For the general duty, See: for example R v Crown Court at Harrow, ex p Dave [1994] 1 ALL ER 315, [1994] 1 WLR 98, which was not cited to us but contains a useful review of earlier authority." (Emphasis mine)

27

Mr. Hamilton also advocated that there was illegality in the matter since the Acting Chief Magistrate failed to understand and apply the law in that the issue of duplicity ought to have been dealt with prior to the hearing of the evidence.

28

Further, Mr. Hamilton said that in the statement attributed to Mr. Linton in the three complaints/summonses namely that he (Linton) would not be provoked into making any comments as to the suitability of Gene Pestaina for the office of Director of Public Prosecutions did not disclose any...

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