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Jan 19, 2022

Hugo Patt Seeks Leave for Judicial Review Following COI Report

Hugo Patt

Corozal North Area Representative Hugo Patt was summoned to testify before a Commission of Inquiry on February twenty-sixth, 2021.  During his time before the panel, the former deputy prime minister was questioned about several transactions involving the sale of his ministerial vehicle while he was still the Minister of Natural Resources.  At the time, he told the commission that he could not recall specific details involving the sale of his 2020 Toyota Tacoma.  It was among several testimonies given during a probe into the fire sale of government assets at the end of the last Barrow administration.  Last week, the commission published a forty-six page report that has raised the ire of the former U.D.P. minister, prompting him to seek legal action, including an interim injunction banning any action taken regarding the commission’s report.   News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Former Deputy Prime Minister Hugo Patt, through his attorney, has filed an application for judicial review to challenge the findings of a Commission of Inquiry into the fire sale of government assets under the previous administration.  The erstwhile Minister of Natural Resources believes that he was unfairly treated by the commission, particularly in a recent report where its findings were published.  He is subsequently seeking an interim injunction to prevent government from proceeding with anything in respect of that report.

Patt is represented by former Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who also appeared before the three-member panel in its initial hearing.  Senior Counsel Barrow has since returned to private practice, following his retirement from electoral politics.  In speaking with News Five, he outlined three points for which, among other things, redress will be sought if the matter is allowed to proceed.  These arguments are based on procedures that were taken in arriving at the conclusions that were published in the report.  According to the seasoned attorney, those procedures were deeply flawed.  His client, the U.D.P. area representative for Corozal North, was not afforded natural justice.  Barrow posits that the findings should not have been published in the report without informing Patt that those details would cast him in a negative light, therefore allowing him to make representations on his behalf.  Likewise, Patt was never allowed to have his lawyer cross examine any witness who appeared before the commission to testify against him.  As a result, the basis for the judicial review is that the commission disregarded Patt’s right to natural justice.

Andrew Marshalleck

There is also a charge that the commission was partial.  While it has certain powers and may require the attendance of witnesses, as well as the presentation of certain documentation to uncover information that may otherwise be difficult to come by, the government cannot interfere in the direction taken by the Commission of Inquiry, nor can it influence the findings.  In this case, Barrow puts forward that Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck was appointed chairman by Prime Minister John Briceño, despite the fact that at the time Marshalleck was also representing him in a defamation suit brought by former Director of Tourism Karen Bevans.  Marshalleck, says Barrow, has also served as a legal advisor to the People’s United Party and sat on its national executive.  As a result, the credibility of the commission is being called to question.

Should leave be granted, Patt is seeking a declaration that the procedure was flawed, infected with bias and that his natural justice rights were breached.  He would also be seeking the quashing of the report.  Most importantly, Patt would be arguing that the violation of his rights also encompassed the violation of his constitutional rights to equal protection under the law.  On the basis that his constitutional rights were violated, Patt will be seeking damages.

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.


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