A 23-year-long property dispute involving a series of bitter court battles has finally ended in defeat for a Barbadian family seeking control of the prime real estate in Christ Church.
In a unanimous decision, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) this morning dismissed the appeal of the matriarch Majorie Ilma Knox – now deceased – who had challenged the order of the local Court of Appeal for her to pay security costs to the 11 respondents following its judgment of June 26, 2020.
Justice Denys Barrow who read the judgment said payment of the costs remained outstanding.
In explaining the events which led to today’s ruling, Justice Barrow told the court that one of the respondents, Kingsland Estate Limited (KEL) became indebted to Knox, one of its shareholders on account of dividends due to Knox.
He said that on the application by the various respondents for a garnishee or an attachment order of the costs, the trial judge ordered that the costs be satisfied by attaching the dividends due by KEL to Knox.
Justice Barrow noted that one of the amounts which the High Court Judge ordered to be satisfied from the dividends was the sum owed to KEL as part of the costs.
He recalled that the trial judge ordered that KEL could “set off” this sum against the obligation to pay dividends to Knox.
Lamenting that the Court of Appeal took four years to deliver its judgment, the CCJ judge pointed to the fact that two of the Justices of Appeal who heard the appeal demitted office.
He noted that one of them Madam Justice Sandra Mason became Governor General of Barbados and the other Justice Andrew Burgess was appointed to the CCJ.
He said the court dismissed Knox’s challenge against the attachment order with both retired judges agreeing with the reasons and result and signed the judgment.
“Knox appealed on two procedural grounds concerning the steps taken by the High Court Judge in making the order of attachment and the order for setoff and on one constitutional ground regarding the right to a fair trial, judicial delay and separation of powers,” he stated.
While the CCJ dismissed the appeal on all grounds, it strongly defended the role of current Head of State Dame Sandra Mason.
“In respect of the constitutional ground, Knox argued that the Court of Appeal’s judgment was [null and void] because the authority of the retired judges to act as appellate judges had expired and they had not retaken the oath of judicial office before the delivery of the judgment.
“Knox also argued that since, at the time the judgment was delivered, the former Justices of Appeal Mason has become the Governor General…this meant, the bench that gave the decision, was not an independent and impartial tribunal as it then comprised a member of the executive branch of the Government. This circumstance, it was said, created a breach of the separation of powers principle,” he said.
But the regional court cited the Constitution of Barbados to support its rejection of Knox’s contention.
“The court found that Section 84(2) b of the Constitution empowers a person to sit as a judge for the purpose of delivering or doing any other thing in relation to proceedings which were commenced before them before they resigned without reappointment or without retaking of the judicial oath. The court found that the principle of separation of powers was not breached and the Court of Appeal was independent and impartial,” Justice Barrow added.
He declared: “Everything that was done in relation to the judgment by the former Justices of Appeal Mason was done not in her capacity as Governor General, but as a former judge. There was no evidence to suggest that the former judge channeled any executive authority or exercised any executive power or discretion.
“The act of affixing her signature in respect of proceedings that were commenced before a Bench that included her while she was a judge of the Court of Appeal, did not breach the separation of powers principle of the judicial independence provisions of the Constitution…and was specifically catered for by Section 84 (2) b of the Constitution. The court found that on the constitutional ground, the appeal also fails.
The court found that the delay in rendering the judgment did not prejudice the outcome of the case.
During a previous sitting, the CCJ had described the dispute as a long-running destructive battle between the Knox and Deane families over the Kingsland Estate and control of Kingsland Estate Limited.
The appellant was represented by a team of lawyers headed by Alair Shepherd, Q.C., who did not comment when asked by the judge if he had anything to say.
Barry Gale, Q.C. led a team on behalf of Classic Investment Limited and Teshawn Wood sat in for Leslie Haynes, Q.C. as representatives for Kingsland Estates Limited. ([email protected])