Author: MNI Media | Date: 13 November 2017
Social activist, Claude Gerald, lost his second outing in the appellate division of the civil court on Montserrat as his lawyer, Dr. David Dorsett did not convince the three member Appeal Court Judges of their case.
Gerald, a proven campaigner for human rights, and the right to hold and air one's opinions, is known for the successful landmark appeal case in 2004 when he sued the Governor of Montserrat and others, for removing him from his position as Director of Agriculture and placing him on a desk at the Ministry of Finance.
This time, he sued the management of the local radio station, ZJB Radio and the Attorney General’s Office, following his immediate removal as a guest commentator on a program hosted by Warren Cassell, a then independent producer on ZJB Radio.
Gerald, an agricultural economist by trade, and a natural health promoter, extolled the highly touted virtues and attributes of Cannabis Sativa aka marijuana - claiming its benefits are superior for the health of a population, fitting ‘hand in glove’ with human body needs. He pointed to the history of the plant and emphasized that marijuana is demonized by policy makers who are keen on denying it its spiritual and healing power in the interest of pharmaceutical companies.
For the court case, Gerald's team relied on the Montserrat Constitution, Sections 2 and 13, which afforded a right to freedom of expression. This principle is recognized by courts in the Commonwealth and the Privy Council. It is especially so when it comes to conveying ideas that are contrary to the established order, including the established legal order.
Mr. Gerald argued that his right to freedom of expression was infringed by the ‘in mid-air’ removal from the mid-morning live broadcast, less than 5 minutes into being heard.
ZJB management through the Attorney General’s Office argued that ‘the discussion on marijuana, 29th January 2014, was stopped because it would have appeared that Radio Montserrat, a Government owned radio station was supporting or promoting the use of marijuana, a substance which is illegal on Montserrat.’ Its actions were defended on the grounds of public order.
The following week after that stated incident took place, Gerald was again interrupted when he began to speak on the benefits of coconut oil and aloe vera, food items that alternate health promoters revere. This time it was argued that no permission was rendered for Mr. Gerald’s return to the air waves.
The appeal judges on Tuesday, recessed for two hours and upon return, an oral judgment was delivered by Justice of Appeal Mario Mitchel. The court dismissed the appeal, holding among other things that the learned trial judge was right in holding that the ZJB Manager was within his right to prevent Mr. Gerald from airing his views, since the manager felt he was promoting the use of marijuana, which was illegal.
Mr. Gerald has 21 days to seek leave to appeal to the Privy Council.