Fri | Sep 25, 2020

Eviction bid stalls as squatters defy court order - Lyndhurst Road settlers praise Phillips for pleading cause

Published:Friday | December 6, 2019 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Peter Phillips, opposition leader and PNP president.

A tense standoff between settlers on a property along Lyndhurst Road in Kingston and bailiffs armed with eviction orders was defused yesterday when East Central St Andrew Member of Parliament Dr Peter Phillips interceded on the residents’ behalf, according to a source.

The more than 100 persons from over 20 families were under threat of their homes being toppled by bulldozers when the MP stepped in yesterday morning.

One resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Phillips gave them a chance to still have shelter over their heads.

“It was a disaster out to happen before the MP saved the day and begged for us,” the resident said.

“I have been living here eight years now, and many other people from around here were actually born right here. So something must can happen for us. Everything a sort out, but we not talking to you (the Gleaner news team), so call Dr Phillips and hear what he has to say about this,” another resident urged.

Repeated calls to Phillips’ cellular phone went unanswered.

Last year, 27 residents were served with notices to leave the property, which some have occupied for nearly 50 years.

Property owner Paul Mullings justified his decision to take the residents to court because “they have neglected and or refused to abide by the terms of the notices to quit and continue their unlawful use and occupation”.

Mullings’ lawyer, Ayisha Robb Cunningham, said that the bailiff deduced that to proceed with the expulsion yesterday would have been too risky and decided to stand down.

She said that information she received indicated that three of the tenants were evicted. She said the bailiff would return to complete the eviction exercise.

However, the residents are adamant that they will stand their ground.

CCJ PRECEDENT

In a recently concluded landmark case, the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice reversed a ruling from the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) that gave away the rights of a person who occupied a piece of land for more than 12 years.

The tenant, David George, had appealed the decision of the ECSC and the Dominica High Court that he was not entitled to be on the land, which he had occupied for more than 12 years.

Justice Adrian Sanders, who oversaw the case, said that the law conferred certain “squatter’s rights” on someone who has been occupying lands in excess of 12 years.

The CCJ then took the view that the law barred even a registered landowner who allowed someone to squat on his land for a continuous period in excess of 12 years from bringing action in court to recover land from the squatter.

The same law gives squatters rights for “owning” lands for 12 years in Jamaica, and with many of the residents at 59¹/2 Lyndhurst Road now living on the property longer than that period, it is uncertain what will unfold if bailiffs make another attempt to remove them.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com