Judicial review allowed for airport baggage handler arrested and released after cocaine bust

Judicial review allowed for airport baggage handler arrested and released after cocaine bust

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Supreme Court has allowed a baggage handler of Nassau Flight Services to apply for judicial review of the Airport Authority’s decision to withhold his work identification that allows him to continue his employment.

The applicant, Betram Paul, had been arrested and later released without charge after authorities found four kilos of cocaine onboard a JetBlue flight en route to the United States.

Paul, was detained along with others on February 16, and his personal belongings, including his work identification badge, seized.

Upon his release, officers of the Drug Enforcement Unit advised that the ID had been returned to Paul’s employers.

He sought, through his attorney, to retrieve the badge from Nassau Flight Services, which reportedly advised that the badge was never returned to them and was in the possession of the director of security of the Airport Authority.

Despite attempts to retrieve the badge, Paul was unable to work for six weeks and was not paid for seven weeks, according to court documents.

The Airport Authority, the first respondent in the matter, refused to issue the badge on the basis that Paul was a “safety or security risk”, relying on the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) Security Programme.

Paul sought leave to apply for judicial review on July 21.

In her ruling, Supreme Court Justice Camille Darville Gomez said while there were some slight differences in the facts presented by each party, there was no divergence of view relating to the main issue of contention, which formed the basis for leave to apply for judicial review application.

Paul has sought a declaration that the Airport Authority acted unreasonably and irrationally toward him and in a way that displayed procedural impropriety, as well as a declaration that the authority acted in a way that failed to observe the basic rules of natural justice.

The authority objected on the basis that there are alternative remedies that ought to have been pursued to have the issue of the revocation of the work identification badge resolved; and that the application for leave to apply for judicial review, at its highest, has almost no realistic prospect of success and is bound to fail at its lowest.

The Civil Aviation Act allows for the director general to revoke an aviation document after an inspection, monitoring or investigation carried out under the act, if he or she has been advised by the general manager of the airport authority that they have withdrawn the security clearance of the document holders; the director general consider that the revocation is necessary in the interests of aviation safety or security; or he or she determines that the privileges or duties for which the document has been granted are not being carried out by the holder, among other reasons.

Written notice and grounds of the decision ought to follow such a decision and be provided to the person affected, who may object.

The judge said while prima facia the definition of an aviation document is broad enough to include the applicant’s work identification badge, the aviation document must be issued under section 20 of the Civil Aviation Act in respect of the stated class under the act.

The act outlines aircraft registration, an airman, air operator conducting general aviation, aerial work or commercial air transport, aviation security services and air traffic, among numerous other classes.

The judge said she does not believe the applicant fell within the class of people or services contemplated by the act and the work identification badge, but noted that even if it did, the appeal provisions would still not have provided an alternative remedy to the applicant.

Paul also argued that the authority acted ultra vires to these provisions, noting that the director general did not revoke the badge, but the director of security did.

The judge added that while the authority relied on the LPIA Security Programme, that document was not disclosed and it could not be addressed whether “this is in fact an alternative remedy available to the applicant”.

“Accordingly, for the reasons set out, I do not believe that the various appeal provisions of the CCA 2021, which I have set out above and upon which the respondent rely as being an alternative remedy available to the applicant, are applicable,” read the ruling.

“In the circumstances, this is a proper case where the court ought to exercise its discretion and grant the applicant leave to apply for judicial review of the decision of the first respondent.”

Attorney Bjorn Ferguson represented Paul, while David Whyms represented the authority.

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.