Saturday, Jun 6, 2020
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Office of the Attorney General takes over in shantytown case

The government has changed its legal representation in the ongoing shantytown litigation due to a “difference of opinion as to the legal strategy in the government’s defense” regarding the judicial review application, Attorney General Carl Bethel said last night.

As it relates to the judicial review application brought forward by ‘Respect our Homes Ltd.’, which has sought to halt the government’s attempt to remove shantytowns throughout The Bahamas, Bethel said Harvey Tynes, QC, and Roberts Adams have withdrawn as counsel representing several respondent government agencies and the ministry.

“The Office of the Attorney General will henceforth conduct the matter on behalf of the respondents in a manner that is consistent with the government’s absolute determination to humanely address the vexing and longstanding problem of irregular, illegal, unsafe and unsanitary housing in shantytowns throughout The Bahamas,” Bethel said in a statement.

“Based on this firm resolve we have agreed to part ways with formerly retained private counsel.

“The government expresses its thanks and appreciation to Messrs. Tynes and Adams for their respectful and untiring efforts up to this point.”

The government retained the legal team led by Tynes to assume carriage of the judicial review brought by Fred Smith, QC, on behalf of 177 shantytown residents who claim the Minnis administration acted illegally when it ordered them to vacate their communities.

On August 4, the Supreme Court issued an injunction preventing the demolition of the shantytowns on New Providence.

The injunction was granted a day after Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson granted leave for a judicial review of the government’s actions regarding shantytowns.

The government had given residents of those communities on New Providence until August 10 to evacuate all unregulated buildings.

The deadline was extended from its initial date of July 31.

Once the latest deadline passed, the government would have moved to demolish the homes in those communities.

In the motion, the residents are seeking relief by way of judicial review and/or constitutional relief against the government.

The motion seeks a declaration that each of the government’s decisions were made “unlawfully and are therefore void, illegal and of no effect”; and that the decisions were made unconstitutionally. The motion also seeks an order quashing those decisions and the government’s policy, and an order of prohibition restraining the government from entering the land or causing any connected utilities being disconnected other than according to law.

The applicants are also seeking damages and further relief and costs.

The government has said it will clear Abaco shantytowns by next July.


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