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.
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 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”.
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.