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VIEC Justified in Court

Barrister Stephen Hockman, QC, (second from left) and Barrister Mark Beard speak to VIEC members after the first day of the Beef Island development court case. (Photo: Mason Marcus, frontpage of the BVI Beacon, April 30, 2009)

Barrister Stephen Hockman, QC, (second from left) and Barrister Mark Beard speak to VIEC members after the first day of the Beef Island development court case. (Photo: Mason Marcus, frontpage of the BVI Beacon, April 30, 2009)

VIEC states case against Beef Island resort

“The Virgin Island Environmental Council concerns are justified. Developers should be more sustainable and eco-friendly than proposed.We invite review of serious public law errors.” London Barrister for the Virgin Islands Environmental Council (VIEC), Stephen Hockman, QC, stood before the Court dressed in full regalia absent the white wig.

It was a case that nearly ended before it started. Minutes into the “learned” barrister’s multi-hour presentation that would call on eight six-inch binders of material, counsel for Quorum Development, Ltd., interrupted and challenged the case.  Counsel stated most emphatically as a breaking of law that VIEC had improperly listed the Attorney General’s Office as sole respondent. The original filing was against the Chief Minister, Dr. Orlando Smith and the Attorney General representing the government. When Dr. Smith left office, VIEC dropped him as a defendant as approved in a public Court hearing. Counsel for defense proceeded to filibuster away the entire day forcing the Justice to make a ruling the following day.

The next morning, Tuesday, April 28, Sheila Schulterbrandt, a founding member of VIEC, said she prayed all night that Justice Charles would side with the environmental coalition, and minutes later her prayers were answered. Ms. Charles also chastised the lawyers for bringing an oral submission minutes after the judicial proceedings began. “This case has been two years in development. The AG has never before today raised an appeal. For you to raise this only five days before this hearing flies in the face our civil procedure rules. It is ambushing for an application as serious as this to come at such a late stage. I believe we have progressed beyond such ambushing. A good case must not be thrown out on a technicality.”

Tuesday’s ruling in favor of VIEC and VIEC commitment to turn the scheduled three days into four days demonstrated that attempts to disrupt the case had failed. With this news, mega-yacht marina developer Island Global Yachting dispatched their representative from New York to fly to the court case in BVI. IGY, one of the world’s premier owners, developers20and managers of luxury marinas and yachting lifestyle destinations, had hoped to add Beef Island to its portfolio which includes properties in the Persian Gulf. It has announced plans to develop and manage Dubai’s first dedicated mega-yacht marina, Palm Jumeirah, which is to be located adjacent to Trump International Hotel & Tower. Its website waxes “From the islands of the Caribbean to the azure waters of the Arabian Gulf IGY has a global footprint that is simply unprecedented.” www.igymarinas.com

VIEC challenged the Beef Island development on three grounds: irrationality, illegality, and bias. . .

Near the end of court session . . .

The case involved judicial review of the former NDP Government’s planning approval for a five-star hotel, marina and golf course that would destroy the scientifically documented biologically important Hans Creek Fisheries Protected Area in Beef Island, British Virgin Islands.

The case has received international attention and acclaim, including the support of Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Atlantic Airways and Mosquito and Necker Islands in the BVI. Sir Richard provided ORI discounted flights on his airline for the legal team flying in from the UK.

In relation to funding for the legal action which continues to be a major challenge, the VIEC has been fortunate to receive the assistance of the Cambridge-based Ocean River Institute (ORI). It is a registered US Charity that provides support services for small environmental groups to take action in their own communities. You may join with Sir Richard in support of VIEC by making a contribution on line. Please indicate your ecological interests on the tax-exempt form.