Justice Hariprashad-Charles, who presided over the arguments presented by parties involved in the historic Beef Island case in Tortola, will hand down her ruling at the High Court on September 15th, 2009. The three-day trial concluded late April after presentations by a battery of UK Lawyers, headed by renowned environmental lawyer Stephen Hockman Q.C who appeared for the VI Environmental Counsel (VIEC), the claimant in the case, the Attorney General Kathleen Quartey, who represented Government (the defendant), and Gerard Farara Q.C., who appeared for the developer, Quorom Island (BVI) Limited.
The ruling has the potential to create a legal precedent that could affect the future of sustainable development, planning policy, and the status of protected areas in the BVI and throughout the Caribbean. The case involved judicial review of the former NDP Government’s planning approval for a five-star hotel, marina and golf course that would destroy the scientifically documented biologically important Hans Creek Fisheries Protected Area in Beef Island, British Virgin Islands.
The case has received international attention, including the support of Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Atlantic Airways and Mosquito and Necker Islands in the BVI. Branson provided discounted flights on his airline for the legal team who came in from the UK. The VIEC has also been fortunate to receive the assistance of the Cambridge-based Ocean River Institute (ORI). It is a registered US Charity that provides support services for small environmental groups to take action in their own communities.
Beef Island is the sixth largest of the British Virgin Islands, 918 acres. It is situated directly east of Tortola and connected by a short two-lane bridge. The island hosts two sparsely populated settlements in the west and northern parts, either side of the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport. The decision is likely to be appealed, and the legal struggle to save Beef Island is expected to continue through the Virgin Islands-OECS court system right up to the level of the Privy Council.
Reported by the BVI Platinum News at http://www.bviplatinum.com/news.php?section=article&source=1251383558