British Virgin Islands

Thursday, Jan 27, 2022

Willock refusing to pay $77K legal fees for failed court injunction

Willock refusing to pay $77K legal fees for failed court injunction

House of Assembly Speaker Julian Willock has argued that he should not be held legally responsible for the tens of thousands of dollars in court fees racked up from a failed Hight Court injunction he instigated.

The Speaker filed an injunction weeks ago to prevent three attorneys – Rhea Harrikisson, Andrew King and Bilal Rawat – from continuing as participants in the ongoing Commission of Inquiry unless they were properly called to the bar in the BVI, in accordance with the law.

But Willock failed, in the first instance, to request the necessary permission from Attorney General (AG), Dawn Smith to bring the matter to court. He belatedly sought her permission after being instructed by the court to do so but the AG reportedly ignored his request which was done in haste. This subsequently led to the Speaker withdrawing the injunction.

With the injunction now torpedoed, the court has asked Willock, along with the defendants named in the matter (including the AG), to state their respective positions as it relates to legal fees on the matter.

In the assessment of costs, the three main defendants claimed that they had incurred $71,388.59 in expenses, while AG Dawn Smith assessed her own costs in the matter at $6,084.00.

Arguments not convincing

Meanwhile, Willock’s attorney at the Silk Legal law firm, Daniel Fligelstone Davies, argued that the Speaker should not be held responsible for the costs in the matter because he brought it before the court as an administrative action which was a matter of public interest in the first instance.

Secondly, Fligelstone Davies argued that there should be no costs decided because the BVI government was paying Willock’s legal fees and would be responsible for any liability for the legal costs of other parties.

Willock’s attorney further submitted that there was no point moving monies from one government pocket to another government pocket.

But Justice Adrian Jack was not persuaded by any of Davies’ arguments, ruling instead that Willock’s action was not brought before the court as a matter of public interest, but rather, as a private law action.

Justice Jack further ruled that he was not convinced by Willock’s claims that he had any agreement with anyone in the BVI government to cover the cost of the injunction.

I had an understanding

The Speaker was instructed to swear an affidavit to this effect to have the matter cleared up by September 7 and avoid any doubts as to who would be held financially culpable.

A section of the very brief affidavit Willock swore to stated: “I hereby confirm that I instructed the lawyers at Silk Legal (BVI) Inc to pursue this administrative law action on the understanding that the Government of the Virgin Islands is covering the costs/fees of the matter.”

Furthermore, Willock said: “I have not paid for the lawyers of Silk Legal (BVI) Inc, it is not my responsibility.”

No agreement in place with government

But the Judge was even more confused by Willock’s affidavit, asking among other things whether the Speaker’s ‘understanding’ was legally binding or not.

Appearing for the AG, Fiona Forbes-Vanterpool, denied any such agreement was in place between the Speaker and the BVI government, as this would have had to be approved by either the clerk of the House of Assembly or the Financial Secretary, depending on the amount of money required.

The Speaker, along with someone from Silk Legal with knowledge of his agreement with the government, was therefore asked to complete another affidavit by 4 pm today giving details of, among other things, who in the government agreed to pay the legal fees.

The judge said he will then be able to decide on costs once this has been done.


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