A few days ago, the Court of Appeal in Nassau ruled on a judicial review action that had been filed by Freeport lawyer Fred Smith in 2010 on behalf of a local pressure group called Responsible Development Abaco. In an unprecedented judgment, the panel agreed that meaningful and adequate public consultation had not taken place on the project. In fact, they said the government and BEC never had any intention to consult the public.
In overturning an earlier ruling by Supreme Court Justice Hartman Longly, the appeal judges pointed out that a town meeting organised by the government and BEC in September 2009 did not constitute adequate consultation since it came too late to influence any decision-making.
In their ruling, the appeal judges made it clear that the judicially reviewable decision in the case was not the retroactive grants of construction permits in 2010, nor the execution of a contract to build the plant in 2007, but the initial decision to proceed that was taken in 2005 – when Bradley Roberts was in charge.
“It was that decision that the subsequent construction contract and subsequent approvals and permissions sought to implement,” the ruling said. “The decision was announced three years after the decision was made, (and) the construction of the plant was revealed after it had already commenced, and the approvals were granted retrospectively.”