The Court of Appeal of St Helena, sitting in London, yesterday heard an appeal brought by the Attorney General against a decision of the Supreme Court handed down earlier this year.
The court did not hear evidence as the hearing was about the application of the law. The Chief Justice of Appeal said at the conclusion of the hearing that ‘it was not an easy case and involved fundamental principles’. The Court reserved judgment and expects to hand down the ruling in a month.
The case involves the unlawful sterilisations of two women by a doctor (who is no longer on St Helena). The Attorney General accepted that SHG was vicariously liable because the doctor was employed by the Health Directorate.
The appeal was not in respect of whether the women deserved compensation. SHG has accepted that they should be compensated. The appeal was in relation to matters of law that have wider implications because they affect how the amount of compensation is calculated. Those principles will apply not only to compensation paid by SHG but to all cases, including those between private individuals. The result of the hearing is that the amount of compensation could go up, stay the same, or go down. The matters that the Court of Appeal has to decide are:
- Firstly, whether the method used by the Supreme Court to award damages in civil claims was correct
- Secondly, whether compensation must be effected at the time of the breach or whether there are other situations where it can be assessed at a later time
- Finally, whether in the appointment of deputies, the Court has any discretion to refer a matter to the Court of Protection in the UK
The decisions of the higher courts must be followed by the lower courts and that is why it is important for these principles of law to be settled – in order to provide consistency when dealing with future cases.
19 September 2017