THE PRIVY Council last week dismissed the appeal of Junior Sammy Contractors Ltd, its executive director Shaun Sammy, and a farmer over their claim to four acres of land.
The three appealed the ruling of the Court of Appeal which upheld the findings of Justice Ricky Rahim in 2018.
In his judgment, Rahim declared that neither farmer Robert Gormandy, Shawn Sammy, nor Junior Sammy Contractors Ltd, had the rights to, title to, or interest in the acres of land in Couva.
The Housing Development Corporation (HDC) had taken the three to court as it attempted to reclaim the lands, which were vested in the HDC by order in 2006.
The HDC had written Sammy requesting that works cease on the land but Sammy had contended that he had secured the property legally through Gormandy who was on the land since 1984. Gormandy maintained he had adverse possession (a method of gaining legal title to the property by the actual, open, hostile, and continuous possession) of the land.
The HDC filed an application for an order that the contractors and Gormandy be evicted from the land.
In his decision, Rahim said since Gormandy had no right, title, or interest in the subject land, he was not entitled to sell the subject land to Sammy.
Rahim also voided the 2014 sale transaction between Gormandy and Sammy for the land, and he restrained them from trespassing on the property.
At last week’s hearing, the judges asked the lead attorney for the three, Queen’s Counsel Oliver Radley-Gardner to address them on the well-established legal principle and practice that the board (of the Privy Council) will not interfere with concurrent findings of pure fact unless there has been some miscarriage of justice or violation of some principle of law.
Radley-Gardner said both courts found that Gormandy had exaggerated his claim to the four acres of land and none of the material they considered justified a finding that he advanced an inflated claim. He also said none of the material considered by the courts was sufficient to deprive him of the acreage and they should have accepted he was in adverse possession of all the land.
He also argued Rahim took “judicial notice” that farmers were good at averaging land while the Appeal Court said it was applying “judicial common sense” but neither was a finding of fact. He said both courts came to findings they were not entitled to make.
He said there was never a suggestion put to Gormandy that he exaggerated his claim and for that reason the Privy Council should consider the appeal.
In opposition to the HDC’s argument that the board should not interfere with the lower courts’ findings, Radley-Gardner said the judicial guillotine had been dropped on Gormandy by Rahim who “fell into error.”
After making submissions for one hour and 20 minutes on why the Privy Council should entertain the appeal, the judges returned after a short break with president of the panel, Lord Patrick Hodge, ruling in favour of the challenge advanced by the HDC’s attorneys Deborah Peake and Ravi Heffes-Doon on the question of the court’s jurisdiction to interfere with concurrent findings of the lower court.