Thursday, April 22, 2021
HomeLOCAL NEWSJOMO THOMAS FEES “EXCESSIVE” RULES HIGH COURT

JOMO THOMAS FEES “EXCESSIVE” RULES HIGH COURT

After four years, the High Court was asked to intervene after parties in the infamous Convent case failed to agree on costs following the 2016 landmark decision.

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The case which involved the transfer a Student from the St. Joseph’s Convent Kingstown and the expulsion of the student from both Convent High Schools administered by the Cluny Board of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The court held at the time:

“I have come to  the  conclusion  that  there  was  indeed  a  breach  of  the principles of natural  justice  in coming to the decision to transfer and expel the student from the SJCK, and all Convents of the Cluny Board in St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.

I am satisfied that the Claimant has shown  that  her  right  to  be  heard  or  to  a  fair  hearing  had  been  infringed.  Not only did  the Defendants  fail  to  give  the  Claimant  notice  of  the  meeting  to  transfer/expel  the  student from  the  SJCK,  so  that  she  could  adequately  prepare  herself,  but they  failed  to  give  her reasons for  the  decision  to  transfer/expel”.

Now the parties in the case which included the Chief Education Officer, Senior Education Officer Secondary Schools, Principal St Joseph Convent, Ministry of Education and the Cluny Board of Management on one hand as defendants and Jomo Thomas representing the Student that was Transferred on the other have recently locked horns again. This time, over how much the defendants will pay to the Student cover her legal fees.

Lawyer Jomo Thomas submitted a bill of costs claiming the sum of $35,515.43. The defendants contended that this sum is excessive. They countered that a sum of $10,000.00 was appropriate and reasonable.

Master of the Court (Ag) Tamara Gill concluded that the case was of great importance but not a overly complex one. She acknowledged that:

“It involved a single  mother  coming  up  against  the  church  and State to assert the rights of her child to be treated fairly and to have access to a quality education. However, I  am  not  of  the  view  that  the  issues  were  particularly  weighty  or  complex”.

The Issue

The Chief Education Officer and other defendants told the court that the bills Jomo Thomas submitted seem “embellished”. Jomo countered that he “had to battle 5 defendants including the all-powerful State machinery and the Catholic Church”.

Decision

The court found that after repeated efforts that for the most part, Mr. Thomas:

“has given no proper account of the costs claimed. This makes it  difficult  for the  court to  come  to  a  conclusion on  the  reasonableness of most of  the amounts claimed.  It is evident that over the course of the proceedings a great deal of preparation and several court hearings were necessary. I am of the view, however, that some of the amounts claimed, particularly   for   chamber   hearings, are excessive.

“I conclude that a reasonable amount to award the claimant in this matter is $18,500.00”.

The award is less than the $35,515.43 sought by Mr. Thomas on behalf of Ms. Allen.

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