Investigations into Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh and the operations of the St. John’s Magistrates’ Court have come to an abrupt end following the ruling of a High Court judge.
Walsh had challenged an investigation commissioned by Hildred Simpson, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, which began on October 4, arguing that the PS had no authority to initiate the probe. The High Court has agreed.
On Monday, October 24, an interim injunction was granted by Justice Jan Drysdale, and a full injunction was granted today, Wednesday, October 26.
This means that the investigation, which was expected to wrap on November 3, comes to an end with immediate effect.
For the past three weeks, the investigating team had been meeting with, and interviewing, members of staff at the Magistrates’ Court. However, the team did not work this week, after the interim injunction was granted.
A source says the next court hearing between the parties will be judicial review proceedings in which Walsh will ask for damages.
This matter is set for early next year, allowing lawyers time to file all their documents, submissions and supporting case law before the matter is heard.
Attorney-at-law Ken Kentish represented Walsh in the matter, while the Attorney General’s Office was represented by Dr. David Dorsett.
Reportedly, Dorsett tried to convince the Court that the investigation was an administrative and not a judicial probe, therefore giving Simpson authority to launch it.
But a source says that any investigation into a Magistrate would have to be ordered by the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission.
By way of a letter dated September 27, and signed by Simpson, Walsh had been notified of the investigation, which covered four main areas, including the alleged verbal, physical, psychological and emotional abuse of the receptionist and staff, generally, at the Court.
The correspondence was sent to the Court while the Chief Magistrate was working in Barbuda. Allegedly, Walsh never received the letter officially and found out about the probe through the media.
The three-member investigating team comprised Tourism Officer Dr. Adele Blair; Deputy Permanent Secretary Joseph Henry; and Principal Assistant Secretary Rita Phillip Harris.