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Supreme Court rules party HQ land always belonged to Crown
This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Supreme Court rules in Crown’s favour, giving judgment in the claim by the Attorney General against the Progressive National Party (PNP)
The Court, dismissed the PNP’s argument that it is entitled to parcel 60602/79 in Providenciales on which its headquarters stands, held (paragraph 53) that “The only possible conclusion is that the beneficial and legal interest in the Land was always and remains in the Crown”.
Judge Ramsey Hale, giving the Court’s judgment, rejected the evidence of Floyd Hall, former Deputy Leader of the PNP and Deputy Premier of the PNP Government in 2006/7. Mr Hall was the primary witness in support of the PNP’s defences to the TCI Government’s claim for the Land. Mr Hall gave evidence that he mistakenly believed that the PNP had a lease of the land (paragraphs 10 and 12 of the Judgment). The Judge rejected Mr Hall’s evidence. She said:
“…it is impossible to accept that Mr Hall, an experienced accountant and a leader of the Party, and the man responsible for preparing the Party’s accounts, was unaware that no rent had been paid in respect of the Land. He would have known from the fact that no rent had been paid that no Conditional Purchase Lease (CPL) had been granted. His evidence that he believed, because planning permission had been granted, that the PNP had a lease the execution of which Arlington Musgrove somehow co-ordinated and for which Musgrove, as a card carrying member of the Party, had elected to pay, frankly strains the credulity of this Court and I reject it.” (paragraph 33).
The Judge went on to conclude (paragraph 34): “…in my judgment, the only inference to be drawn from the evidence is that Mr Hall and the PNP knew that no lease had been agreed, executed or granted by the Governor and that it had no title to the land”.
In other findings in the case, the Judge also determined that the PNP, as an unincorporated association, has no legal personality and cannot sue or be sued. She therefore determined that the claims for damages could not be pursued against the PNP as a body, or Mr Cooke, the Chairman of the PNP, since it had not been shown that he personally was a trespasser, nor was he deemed by the Court to be legally representative of all the PNP members.
The outcome of the case is therefore that the Crown is entitled to parcel 60602/79 including the PNP headquarters, but it is not entitled to pursue its claim for damages against the PNP (because it does not legally exist according to the Court) or against Mr Cooke (because he has not personally been shown to be a trespasser). The Crown would be entitled to claim damages for trespass against any individual PNP member or other person whom it could prove had been trespassing on the land.
Commenting on the Judgment, the Attorney General said:
I am pleased that judgment has now been given, and that the Court has agreed with our case that the Crown is entitled to this valuable parcel of land and office building built on it. This has been a difficult case, which we had always hoped would be resolved amicably, and I am sorry that it was necessary to bring the matter to a trial to resolve it. I very much hope it will now be possible to deal with the remaining matters amicably, and for the PNP to accept the judge’s ruling and voluntarily to hand over possession of the building as quickly as possible.
I will consider the comments of the judge carefully in relation to the damages aspect of the case. Although it seems that it would be open for me to bring proceedings for damages against anyone who has been in occupation of the building since 2006, these proceedings were always about recovery of the land and never really about money. Our foremost aim was always to recover the land and that has now been achieved. I will now have to consider whether it is in the public interest to take any further steps to seek to recover damages, and I will do that over the coming days.
We will also need to wait and see whether the PNP decides to appeal this judgment but I do hope all aspects of this matter can be brought swiftly to an amicable conclusion. My door is open, as it always has been, to resolving all matters in a friendly way with the PNP as quickly as possible without the need for any further legal steps.
This successful judgment is the latest in a series of recoveries by the Civil Recovery Team led by Edwards Wildman. It follows the announcement at the end of May of the recovery of 550 acres of land and $75,000 in cash in a settlement with Richard Padgett. The team has now recovered for TCIG over 3,000 acres of land (currently valued at in excess of $100m) and nearly $20m in cash paid or ordered to be paid for TCIG.