Bailiff blues - Court compound eviction notice sparks concern
Corporate Area head bailiff Augustus Sherriah is seeking the intervention of Chief Justice Zaila McCalla, as he challenges a notice to move from the compound of the civil division of the Corporate Area Parish Court.
Sherriah uses the downtown Kingston-based court compound to store motor vehicles, heavy-duty equipment, and other goods that he has seized based on court orders.
But acting Senior Parish Judge Opal Smith, in a letter dated September 12, ordered him to vacate the premises which he occupies without paying a fee.
According to Sherriah, he has sought the intervention of the chief justice because he does not have the money he would have to pay for storage fees if the seized items were moved.
There are three forklifts stored on the compound, and Sherriah told The Sunday Gleaner that those are the subject of ongoing litigation in the Supreme Court.
Six other motor vehicles are also being stored on the compound, but four are without wheels as they have been stolen, despite Sherriah's claim that there is a watchman on the premises at nights.
"The forklifts were previously in storage elsewhere, but after receiving a bill for more than $100,000, which I paid from my own pocket, I had to remove them to the court compound," said Sherriah, as he argued that it was unfair for him to use his money to do the Government's work.
"Over the years of seizing goods by the order of the Supreme Court as well as the parish courts, when costs are requested, the judges presiding in the cases refuse to make such orders," added Sherriah
He said in one case, he presented documents to prove he had spent nearly $1 million for watchmen wages, but the court refused to make an order for costs.
According to Sherriah, he was served with the removal notice days after he wrote a letter to the parish judge on September 6, outlining problems he was facing, especially with the incidents of theft at the compound.
He told our news team that the judge responded in a letter saying that she was aware of the incidents and would forward a copy of his correspondence to the relevant authorities.
"Both incidents are most unfortunate, especially since the vehicles are owned by litigants and were seized by you for a particular purpose," the judge said in her response.
"The incidents have highlighted the issue of storage. I have noticed a growing number of seized vehicles being stored in the parking lot and also in the quadrangle area downstairs. Not only has this made the compound unsightly and at times dangerous, but the cars, in particular, are occupying spots designated for the staff," added the judge.
In ordering Sherriah to remove the items, the judge wrote: "I appreciate that you may experience some difficulty in finding adequate or suitable storage for goods seized of this nature; however, the court compound is not the appropriate place for these items.
"In the future, I ask that you make (alternative) arrangements for the storage of these items. Further, I ask that the cars, heavy-duty equipment and other large items that are currently located in the parking lot and quadrangle be relocated on or before October 31, 2016."
But Sherriah has argued that his predecessor stored seized items on court compound and he could not recall anyone ordering them removed.
He argued that he is being treated as if he was on a frolic of his own while he was executing his duties.
"l have, in the past, invited the magistrates of the court, court management service personnel, persons from the Ministry of Justice as well as others to visit the bailiff's office in order to have an appreciation of the conduct of the office.
"The only person who ever visited was Chief Parish Judge Judith Pusey, and during her time, the court as well as the bailiff's office operated at the optimum," argued Sherriah, who has been a bailiff since 1973.
Up to press time, Sherriah had not received a response from the chief justice.