A well-known attorney is suggesting that Public Service Vehicle (PSV) drivers and conductors planning a $15 million class-action lawsuit against Government over fines for wearing uniforms do not have a legal leg to stand on.
Arthur Holder, who is also Speaker of the House of Assembly, also believes the Magistrate’s Court ruling that sparked the reported legal action could soon be appealed by the Commissioner of Police.
Last Friday, attorney-at-law and former transport minister Michael Lashley QC was able to convince Magistrate Graveney Bannister to dismiss a case against PSV worker Andre Marlon Scott who had pleaded guilty to charges relating to not being appropriately dressed and not wearing the required PSV badge. The magistrate ruled that the law pertaining to attire was absent of specific descriptions.
However, Arthur told Barbados TODAY that his research shows no such legal loophole exists and he anticipates an appeal from the Crown within the allowable seven-day period.
“The Commissioner of Police is still within the time limit to appeal the decision of Magistrate Bannister. I think it will be appealed because I have [researched] all of the law as it relates to this matter,” he said.
Holder suggested that Bannister did not consider developments, which supersede 43 (i) (f) of the Road Traffic Act, that mandates all drivers be “suitably attired and wear boots, shoes or sandals and such other apparels as the Licensing Authority approves”.
In arguing for the case against his client to be dismissed, Lashley had told the court that at the time, PSV operators were permitted to wear grey polo shirts and Scott was wearing one when he was reported last year. The lawyer had also argued that the regulations spoke to attire “approved by the Barbados Licensing Authority” and not by the Transport Authority, and therefore the officer who reported Scott erred when he cited him for not wearing a Transport Authority-approved uniform.
However, Arthur pointed out that it was during Lashley’s tenure as Minister of Transport and Works, and through the carte blanche powers vested in the Chief Technical Officer, that notice was given of the uniform specifications for conductors and drivers.
“A notice came from the Ministry of Transport and Works, the parent ministry of the Licensing Authority, on March 1, 2015 . . . as to what constitutes the appropriate attire that must be worn by PSV conductors and drivers. That notice gave detail of the required attire to conform to Section 43 (f) of the Road Traffic Regulations under which this gentleman was charged. Therefore, attire has nothing to do with the Transport Authority at all,” Holder insisted.
“There is no lacuna in the law, there is no loophole, and the irony of it all is that it would be sad because Michael Lashley was the Minister of Transport and Works and an attorney-at-law. Is he saying that he allowed a notice to come from that ministry that is in conflict with Section 43, Sub-Section (f) of the Road Traffic Regulations? It would therefore be dramatic irony if he were trying to say that the notice is now invalid.”
Arthur also offered some free legal advice to the PSV workers who are mobilizing to recoup fines and seek compensation for prison sentences. He told them they had long missed the boat as it relates to appealing their convictions.
“If you are appealing a case in the Magistrates’ Court, you only have seven days to file that appeal. So, on what grounds are you going to come three or four years after the fact? The law is clear; ignorance of the law is no excuse. Are you now going to sue for wrong interpretation of the law? That is what the appeal process is for,” he stressed.
Barbados TODAY made several attempts to reach Lashley for comment but was unsuccessful.