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Case details

Smith and another (Appellants) v Attorney General of Trinidad & Tobago and others (Respondents) (Trinidad & Tobago)

Case ID: JCPC 2018/0045

Jurisdiction: Court of Appeal of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

Case summary

Issue

Whether the Court of Appeal was entitled to conclude that the Chief Magistrate's ruling was not vitiated by the appearance of bias or by the deprivation of Smith and Gomes’ right to due process and a fair hearing.

Facts

Smith and Gomes (the "Appellants") were defendants in a preliminary inquiry relating to fraud and corruption-related offences arising from the awarding of contracts for the development and construction of the Piarco International Airport between 1997 and 2000. The preliminary inquiry took place between June 2002 and January 2008 and was conducted by the late Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls (the "Chief Magistrate").

In December 2007, the Appellants and other defendants in the inquiry applied to the Chief Magistrate to recuse himself by reason of the appearance of bias, or alternatively, to refer the matter to the High Court for constitutional relief. The Chief Magistrate refused the applications and committed the Appellants and other defendants to stand trial in January 2008. No indictment has been filed since then and the trial has not taken place.

The Appellants challenged the Chief Magistrate’s ruling on the recusal applications and other aspects of his conduct of the preliminary inquiry by way of judicial review and constitutional motion. Those proceedings were rejected by the High Court in 2009. They appealed to the Court of Appeal, which rejected their appeal in 2017.

Parties

Appellant(s)

John Henry Smith, Barbara Gomes

Respondent(s)

Attorney General of Trinidad & Tobago and others

Appeal

Justices

Lord Hodge, Lord Sales, Lord Leggatt, Lord Burrows, Lord Malcolm

Hearing start date

19 October 2021

Hearing finish date

19 October 2021