If the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) thinks it has heard the last from its former Christ Church West representative Dr Maria Agard, it may have another thing coming.
Mere hours after the High Court today threw out her legal challenge to her November 22, 2015 expulsion from the Opposition party on the grounds that it was improperly filed, Agard today said she was not ruling out the possibility of refiling the case.
However, she said her final decision on whether to sue the Mia Mottley-led BLP all over again, would be made in conjunction with her family and her attorneys.
Agard, who was noticeably absent from the High Court today when Justice Olson Alleyne delivered his ruling, made her position known in a three-page press release issued by attorney-at-law Lynette Eastmond, who has been assisting Queen’s Counsel Hal Gollop in fighting her case.
In his 50-page judgment, Alleyne, while dismissing the lawsuit, left the door open for it to be refiled.
“Dr Agard is still of a strong conviction that a severe and willful injustice was meted out to her by the leadership of the Barbados Labour Party. In the circumstances, she would take into account the option handed to her by the learned High Court Justice, take advice from her counsel, as well as discuss the matter with her family before making any decision on the future of this matter,” the press release said, while expressing concern about how difficult it is for working class people in Barbados “to pursue matters of natural justice in Barbados because of the costs attached to such proceedings.
Agard, a dentist by profession, and who currently sits as an independent in the House of Assembly, further suggested that “a just society should devise means of lowering these costs so access to justice would not be a privilege, but a right, especially with regard to addressing the grievous acts of abuse by figures in authority”.
In his ruling, Justice Alleyne ordered Agard to pay yet-to-be-determined costs to the attorneys representing BLP Chairman Mia Mottley and General Secretary Dr Jerome Walcott, the two defendants named in the suit.
The judge was particularly harsh in his criticisms of the way in which the Gollop-led legal team had filed their client’s claim, pointing out that it was lodged against the wrong people, on the wrong fix date claim form (FDCF) and in the wrong way.
“In considering this matter, I have taken account also that the claimant has had a second bite at the proverbial cherry. She filed an amended FDCF, albeit without leave. I have heard no submissions on it, but the record speaks for itself. That document was filed to remedy admitted defects in the FDCF. However, as counsel for the defendants submitted, it maintains many of the flaws that characterized the original document,” the presiding judge found.
“It remains the wrong mode of commencement; it does not set out a short description of the nature of the claim; it does not state in its body, the capacity in which the defendants are sued; it contains the same internal headings that are apt to confuse; and it reproduces an incoherent paragraph already the subject of complaint.
“Additionally, it invites unguided references to the claimant’s affidavit for some of its intended contents,” the judge stated.
He further suggested that his ruling to strike out Agard’s claim was more efficient than the “untidy” alternative of having her make a major overhaul of the relevant claim document, which contained substantial breaches and would require substantial amendments.
Alleyne also warned that had he gone the latter route, it would have done nothing to discourage sloppiness or encourage careful adherence to the Court Procedural Rules (CPR).
However, Agard, who has been replaced by fellow dentist Dr William Duguid as the BLP’s Christ Church West representative, may still seek to have her day in court, with the question of whether her expulsion from the BLP was in breach of natural justice yet unanswered.
In this regard, her press release today specifically pointed to Page 49 of the judgment, which said:
“Striking out the claim would not deprive the claimant of her access to the court or bestow any windfall on the defendants. The claimant may make a fresh start with these procedural flaws behind her.”
In the meantime, Mottley, who along with Dr Walcott was in court today, told reporters on the steps of the High Court complex that the BLP was happy that the two-year-old matter had come to an end.
“We have contended all along that we treated Dr Agard fairly and that the action . . . was always wrong . . . that she was suing the wrong party, in the wrong way, with the wrong document, with the wrong cause of action. The court has in fact held that this morning and described the claim form as a catalogue of errors, no less than seven,” Mottley said, while describing the matter as an unfortunate series of events.
Insisting she was glad it was now behind her, the BLP leader said it was never about who was going to be the candidate in Christ Church West since that was settled 18 months ago.
“This was simply about the membership of the Barbados Labour Party because Dr Agard never applied for a stay while this matter was being heard. So the most that could have come from this was damages.
“In any event, all that is left for us is to stay focused on what lies before the country. There is too much before Barbados now for us to be distracted,” Mottley added.
Commenting on today’s development, political scientist and pollster Peter Wickham said he never expected Agard to win the case, while contending that she could not force an organization to keep her as a member.
Wickham suggested that if she wanted to pursue a career in politics, she should go to the people on her own or join the United Progressive Party (UPP), which, incidentally, is led by Lynette Eastmond.
“She should [finish] with this court thing. It isn’t doing anything for her,” the political scientist suggested.
Mottley was represented in the case by Queen’s Counsel Leslie Haynes in association with Leslie Roberts, while Roger Forde, QC, in association with Michelle Shepherd, appeared for Dr Walcott.
Gollop, in association with Eastmond and Kara-Je Kellman, represented Agard.