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Landmark ruling in Spencer’s favour

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Landmark ruling in Spencer’s favour

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CASTRIES, St Lucia – The Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal Wednesday ruled that High Court judge Louise Blenman erred when she invalidated the victories of Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and two of his senior Cabinet ministers in the last general elections.
In a 103 page ruling, the three-member Appeal Court ruled that Justice Blenman also erred when she invalidated the election of Prime Minister Spencer, his Tourism Minister John Maginley and Education Minister Jacqui Quinn-Leandro “on the grounds that she could not say that the results in the contested constituencies were not affected by the late opening of the polling stations and the consequent late start of voting“ in the three affected constituencies.
The Appeal Court said it would allow “the grounds of the appellants appeal which challenge the trial judge’s decision on this issue”.
Justice Louise Blenman had declared the victory of  Prime Minister Spencer, Maginey and Quinn-Leandro invalid basing her ruling on polling day irregularities; particularly the long delays before voting began in the constituencies of St John’s Rural West, St John’s Rural North and St George during the March 12, 2009 general election.
Her ruling had the effect of removing the UPP from office, since the main opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) would have had seven seats in the 14-member Parliament and the UPP, six. The other seat was won by the Barbuda Peoples Movement.
But the UPP members appealed the High Court ruling.
The Appeals Court said that the High Court judge erred when she Held “that the issue of late voting by persons who voted after 6.00 pm in the polling stations in the St. George and St. John Rural West constituencies was properly pleaded.”
But the Appeal Court said that she did not err when she “held as a matter of fact that there was no late voting in the Rural St John West constituency by persons who joined at 6.00 pm on election day”.
The judge also did not err when she ruled that voting after 6.00 pm by persons who were in the line at that time did not breach the election rules.
“The learned trial judge did not err when she ruled that the late opening of polling stations after 6.00 am on election day in the contested constituencies breached Rule 1(7) of the Election Rules,” the Appeals Court ruled.
In upholding the appeal by the three government ministers, the Appeals Court also ruled that “the parties share bear their own costs in the High Court as well as these in the appeals proceedings”. (CMC)

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