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Ousted tax boss to petition Privy Council

BY PAUL HENRY Co-ordinator - Crime/Court Desk henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, May 01, 2014    

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VIRALEE Latibeaudiere, the dismissed commissioner-general of Tax Administration Jamaica, will be challenging at the Privy Council a ruling yesterday by the Court of Appeal in her case against the Government.

The confirmation came last night from Hugh Wildman, one of the lawyers representing the former tax boss.

Wildman told the Jamaica Observer that Jamaica's appellate court erred in siding with the Government in a ruling yesterday that Latibeaudiere did not file her pleadings within the stipulated 14 days for the judicial review hearing into her dismissal.

The attorney said the Court of Appeal had agreed that Supreme Court judge Justice Bryan Sykes was correct in granting Latibeaudiere leave to apply for judicial review of the decision by the Ministry of Finance to terminate her employment, but that the issue now lies with the appellate court's ruling that she never met the 14-day deadline.

Last year August, Sykes granted leave for Latibeaudiere to apply for judicial review of the finance ministry's decision to terminate her contract. An injunction was in place to prevent the filling of the post.

The judicial review was set to be held on October 29 and 30 last year, and a case management hearing set for September 19. Latibeaudiere was given 14 days to file pleadings for the judicial review hearing, but that wasn't done as the court went on holiday for the summer.

The Government filed its appeal arguing that the matter should be struck out because the deadline was not met. But Latibeaudiere's legal team argued that pleadings could not be filed because the court was on a legally recognised summer break.

Yesterday, the court ruled against her. The injunction that prevented the Government filling the post was also removed by the court. At the same time, it was noted that Latibeaudiere's contract came to an end yesterday.

Wildman told the Observer last night that they will be going to the Privy Council, because the Judicature Supreme Court Act recognises the legal vacation.

"We have a Privy Council case (Benjamin Leonard MacFoy v United Africa Company Ltd of 1962) that makes it abundantly clear that during the long vacation, which is the summer vacation, lawyers are not required to file pleadings, and it is an irregularity for lawyers to file pleadings at this time," Wildman said.

Regarding the removal of the injunction, he said: "If they go ahead and appoint somebody else to the post, once the matter is finally determined, the Government is running the risk of having that person removed from office and Mrs Latibeaudiere reinstated and they would have to pay damages for breach of her constitutional right and also for the time she was out of office."

In relation to the expiring contract, the attorney said that Latibeaudiere was not a contract officer, was appointed under section 125 of the constitution, and can only be removed by the governor general.

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