Yesterday we told you about the Caribbean Court of Justice’s decision to dismiss an appeal made back in 2010 by Juanita Lucas and Celia Carrillo two senior principals of the Escuela Secundaria Tecnica Mexico in San Roman Corozal.
As we reported, the Trinidad-based Court also dismissed arguments that principal Juanita Lucas and vice Principal Celia Carillo, be awarded damages. In dismissing the appeal, the CCJ, the country’s final court, emphasised and we quote “that the suspensions were not to punish the appellants but rather to allow a proper inquiry into the problems at the school”, end quote. The Court noted that the right to work was not a guarantee of continued employment and there was no inference with the appellants’ ability to continue practising their profession. The majority held that there was no breach of the protection of the law or the right to equal protection because the team of persons sent to the school was on a fact-finding inquiry. According to their Attorney Magali Marin Young, even though their suspension was squashed and the investigation was declared unlawful, her clients felt that they had sustained damage to their professional reputation and that the entire process was high handed and unfair. At the CCJ level, the appeal was dismissed at a 3 to 2 split decision. Young says the minority decision revealed that the judges ruled that the appellants’ right to the protection of the law was seriously violated which was stated in section 152 and 156 of the judgment documents. Here is Young’s interpretation of that excerpt…
MAGALI MARIN YOUNG – Attorney for Lucas and Carrillo
“Mrs. Lucas and Mrs. Carillo fundamental rights has been seriously violated and I quoting him, and he said that the whole publicity uncertain eh fact that they were not given a fair hearing during the investigation, that in his mind their rights of the protection of the law has been seriously violated and he would have awarded not only damages, he would have ordered the ministry to issue a public apology to these women, he said that is the only way that these women could get some to the damage to their reputation so he was dissented, he was in the minority, another judge strongly agreed with justice Saunders that these women constitutional rights had in fact been seriously violated but unlike the justice he would not have ordered an apology, not because he felt one was needed is just that he felt if one was ordered he doesn’t believe that if given that the apology would have been genuine so he does not believe in forcing people to give an apology but he did considered that that was something but to award but he felt that women were entitled to vindictive damages for the violation of their fundamental rights so that we have a very serious case that went to the Caribbean Court of Justice and we had a split decision it was not a unanimous decision and you have two of the decisions very forceful in their language and condemnatory of the manner in which the ministry of education conducted this investigation and the manner in which they treated Mrs. Lucas and Mrs. Carrillo.”
Young says that while her clients weren’t awarded damages or the court made any order to the Ministry to stop paying their salaries, both women continue to remain at home and receiving their salaries. To date, the appellants have not been reinstated. Young says at some point, Lucas and Carrillo will have to enter into dialogue with the Ministry of Education for alternative placement. It is of note that the Ministry cannot take disciplinary action against them because the suspension, the investigation and the investigative report were squashed and so that cannot be used against them. We’ll keep an eye on this story, should it develop.