A judicial review application filed at the Grand Court earlier this month seeks to overturn a long-standing law that prohibits records from the Legislative Assembly from being used as evidence in court without the permission of the Speaker of the House.
The issue stems from a lawsuit that Carol Angela Bennett filed against Henry Michael Diaz in 2015, seeking damages from a car accident the two had about three years earlier.
In that case, Ms. Bennett sought to use as evidence a Hansard record – a verbatim transcript of what was said in Legislative. Court records do not state what, specifically, she was seeking to use as evidence in her case. To access the transcript, that she was required to obtain permission from the Legislative Assembly, as per the Legislative Assembly (Immunities, Powers, and Privileges) Law, which was originally enacted in 1965.
However, Speaker of the House McKeeva Bush denied her permission to use the Hansard record last October, according to court records.
As a response, Ms. Bennett sued for judicial review, claiming that Mr. Bush “acted illegally and improperly” in making his decision.
Ms. Bennett’s claim form states that Mr. Bush applied a blanket policy to her request without considering its merits and without considering “the consequential denial of justice and the bringing of the court process and the Legislative Assembly into disrepute.”
The lawsuit further contends that the sections of the Legislative Assembly Law requiring permission for records to be used in court are unconstitutional.
When asked for comment, Mr. Bush did not respond specifically to the claims made in Ms. Bennett’s judicial review application, but sent the Compass a statement on the matter that he made in the Legislative Assembly last November.
That statement was part of a 25-plus minute speech he made last November that largely focused on warning MLAs against acting inappropriately, and warning the media from publishing “irresponsible or scandalous” accounts of what happens in the Legislative Assembly.
He also addressed the issue of using Legislative Assembly records in court.
“Requests have been made to allow the use of Hansards – the official report of this legislature – in certain court cases,” Mr. Bush stated. “This is not allowed.”
Mr. Bush said he reached this decision because the policy that Legislative Assembly records are inadmissible in court is “precedence set down centuries ago” by law and convention. Ms. Bennett challenges this statement in her judicial review application, claiming that Mr. Bush “wrongly found that the official Hansard record had not historically been cited in court.”
“In the matter of the request made to me, my decision not to grant permission stands,” Mr. Bush added at the time. “The strength of this traditional position of the convention is to protect the institution of parliament to prevent issues or conflicts with the courts and to avoid the risk of any ill-conceived attempts to use parliament’s proceedings for wrong private purposes.”
A trial date for the judicial review application has not been scheduled yet. Attempts to reach Ms. Bennett were unsuccessful before Tuesday’s press deadline.