Government has come in for a tongue-lashing from attorney-at-law Ralph Thorne, QC, for its failure to file a defence to the legal challenge to its plans to fingerprint Barbadians leaving and entering the country.
When the matter came up for hearing in the No 8 Supreme Court yesterday, Madam Justice Pamela Beckles ruled that the Immigration (Biometrics) Regulations 2015 were “null and void” and “not properly and lawfully enacted” in accordance with the provisions of Section 41 of the Interpretation Act, Chapter 1 of Laws of Barbados.
The case was heard in chambers after Government failed to file a defence within the required 28 days.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Thorne slammed the Freundel Stuart administration’s “tyrannical” approach to the legal challenge.
“Politically, there is a tyrannical content that is disturbing. The unkindest cut of all has been to flout the court’s authority in not even bothering to write its own defence as required by the rules of Court,” the attorney-at law charged.
“It portends badly for the constitutional mandate of peace, order and good government of Barbados,” he added.
Thorne, who will represent the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in Christ Church South in the next election, welcomed yesterday’s court ruling.
“An independent judiciary has shown itself willing to defend the rule of law for the protection of the citizens against the potential for tyrannical rule,” he contended.
Another attorney-at-law long associated with the BLP, former Attorney General Sir Henry Forde, QC, gave yesterday’s ruling two thumbs up.
He told Barbados TODAY the verdict emphasized the importance of the rights of Barbadians to challenge the constitutionality of certain Government decisions.
“It is an interesting decision. Personally I agree with it. The constitution is a very important document [and] one needs to test these things against the constitutional provisions.
“You must bear in mind that the persons to be fingerprinted are Barbadians. The decision is made in the context of where Barbadians want to come and go to his or her country without restrictions based on the fact that the information may not be used for security reasons. It is interesting for both the Government and the people to follow these things as they go ahead,” Sir Henry said.
Attorney-at-law and social activist David Comissiong had brought a constitutional case against Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, whose office is responsible for immigration; Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite and Chief Immigration Officer Wayne Marshall, arguing the plan to fingerprint Barbadians was unconstitutional and restricted the right of citizens to return to their native country.
In her ruling Beckles said not only were the regulations unconstitutional, but that such an infringement was not reasonably required in the interest of the defence, public safety or public order of Barbados.