FORMER chairman of the Urban Development Corporation (Udecott) Calder Hart has won his complaint that his right to a fair hearing was breached by the commission of inquiry into the construction of the failed Las Alturas housing complex in Morvant.
On Friday, Justices of Appeal Mark Mohammed, Peter Rajkumar and Maria Wilson allowed Hart’s appeal of Justice David Harris’s dismissal of his protests in a ruling in 2020.
In their ruling, the judges said the commission did not follow its own procedures. They said although Hart did not participate in the inquiry by either testifying or providing a witness statement, he was entitled to be treated fairly.
“It is a fundamental requirement of natural justice and procedural fairness that a person be afforded the opportunity to respond to, or defend himself against, proposed adverse findings or criticism rather than being condemned unheard.”
The commission’s findings against Hart were quashed.
Hart was represented by Jamaican King’s Counsel Dr Lloyd Barnett, Anthony Bullock and Tecla Duncan-Caines. Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein and Rishi Dass as well as Amrita Ramsook appeared for the Attorney General as an interested party in the matter. The commission, Wing-Sang Chin and Farrell were represented by Richard Clayton, KC, Jayanti Lutchmedial and Ganesh Saroop. Ibrahim died in June 2017, and Hart had not been successful in an earlier application to have his estate joined as a party.
The Las Alturas Towers were apartment buildings at Lady Young Gardens, Morvant, built for the Housing Development Corporation.
Two multi-storey units began falling apart after construction, and the $26 million towers were earmarked for demolition. They were part of a larger project, which was originally budgeted at $67 million and then rose to $90 million. The contract was awarded to China Jiangsu International, which also unsuccessfully challenged the commission’s decision to make it a party to the inquiry.
The Commission of Inquiry was appointed on December 2, 2014, to investigate “the entire process which led to the construction of the Las Alturas Towers at Lady Young Gardens, Morvant, and all other acts, matters or decisions done or undertaken incidental to and including the construction” of the project, which included the procurement process.
After an 18-month public inquiry, the commission found Hart should be held accountable and liable for losses sustained in the execution of the failed $26 million towers, based on evidence and because of the alleged depth and extent of his role in selecting the site for the failed housing complex.
Its report was published on August 30, 2016.