Thu | Aug 24, 2017

Supreme Court throws out challenge against Gov't withdrawals from NHT

Published:Thursday | August 11, 2016 | 8:21 PM

Livern Barrett, Senior Gleaner Writer

The Supreme Court has dismissed a legal challenge to the decision of the Portia Simpson Miller administration four years ago to enact legislation authorising the withdrawal of $45.6 billion in budgetary support from the National Housing Trust (NHT).

The challenge was brought by St James businessman Fitzroy Fagan.

In 2013, the Simpson Miller Government amended the NHT Act to green-light four annual withdrawals of $11.4 billion, starting with the 2013-14 financial year and ending this year.

The Government explained at the time that the funds were needed to enable Jamaica to meet certain fiscal targets included in the four-year extended fund facility with the International Monetary Fund.

However, Fagan, through his attorney, Hugh Wildman, asked the court to declare the National Housing Trust [Amendment] [Special Provisions] Act 2013 null and void and find that the multibillion-dollar withdrawals amounts to a “deprivation” of this property as defined by the Constitution.

However, the Full Court, in a verbal decision handed down last month, sided with attorneys for the NHT who had argued that the agency was never intended to operate as a private trust scheme, despite the use of the word ‘trust’ in the name.

The court also found that even if the NHT operated as a trust scheme, there was no evidence that the payments to the government deprived Fagan of his property or benefits.

The Full Court is to deliver its written judgment in the new term, which starts next month.

In the meantime, Wildman told The Gleaner today that he has already filed an appeal against the decision.

He, however, declined to disclose the grounds for the appeal, saying he was “at a function and couldn’t speak now".