Judge orders Arima woman jailed for contempt of court in land case

A HIGH COURT judge has ordered an Arima woman to be imprisoned for seven days for disobeying its order in a land dispute.

Justice Ricky Rahim suspended Shelly Streete Allong’s jailing until August 9, to give her time to break down all that is left standing of her house, her father’s house and an adjacent house built by her father.

They all stand on land belonging to another owner at Crapo Alley, Tunapuna Road.

If she fails to do so by then, a marshal of the court will arrest Allong, of Walls Street, O’Meara Road South, for contempt of court and take her to the women’s prison in Arouca to serve the seven-day term of simple imprisonment.

The marshal’s power of arrest will be executable on August 10.

If she complies, the order for her arrest and imprisonment will be stayed permanently.

Before the judge was a civil contempt-of-court application brought by Ria Ramgoolam on behalf of her family.

Allong and her husband were ordered to vacate the lands in Tunapuna in 2013 and ensure all the structures were demolished after their claim to adverse possession failed. Ramgoolam and her relatives were found to be the legal owners of the land.

Allong and her relatives built at least three houses on the land. These were the houses the court ordered demolished.

Another person named as a defendant in the case, Donsil Holder, has since died, so the application remained against Allong alone.

Allong and Holder’s appeal was dismissed and they were ordered to vacate the property.

On February 14, 2020, the court made a similar suspended committal order against Allong in her absence, since she failed to attend court in person that day.

That order was set aside and a new order was made on August 25, 2020, for her to file affidavits in relation to the claim she failed to abide by the court’s original order to vacate, demolish and refrain from entering the lands. Up to now, nothing has been filed.

Allong and Holder were ordered to pay nominal damages for trespass and costs in both the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

In his ruling, Rahim said while he accepted that Allong did attempt to demolish her house, but could not complete the demolition because of financial constraints, she failed to ask the court to vary its order.

“There is no ambiguity in the order and partial demolition of the structure amounts to a breach of the order,” was the judge’s finding.

In relation to the order for Allong to vacate the property, he found while she herself vacated it, she failed to ensure the occupiers of the other houses also did so.

In his ruling, Rahim said the power of the courts to punish contempt was part of their inherent jurisdiction to protect and to fulfil the judicial function of administering justice according to law in a regular, orderly and effective manner.

“It is a civil contempt of court to refuse or neglect to do an act required by a judgment or order of the court within the time specified in the judgment or order, or to disobey a judgment or order requiring a person to abstain from doing a specified act,” he said.

Allong was also ordered to pay the costs of the contempt application and Rahim ruled that his order was an exception to the suspension of timelines effected by the Chief Justice’s covid19 practice directions.

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