Written by 12:03 am Music

Appeal Court to rule on EMA’s power to shut down fetes


A patron perched on a railing enjoys the music at a fete. File photo/David Reid

THE COURT of Appeal has been asked to overturn a judge’s ruling that the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and the police would not have the ability to shut down events or fetes due to noise levels.

In submissions before Justices of Appeal Allan Mendonca, Prakash Moosai and Gillian Lucky on Friday, the EMA’s lead attorney, Kelvin Ramkissoon, insisted the finding of the High Court on the powers of the EMA was improper and perverse.

The judges have reserved their decision.

The EMA has appealed the June 2021 ruling of Justice Margaret Mohammed within the judicial review claim of fete promoter, Wild Goose Ltd, against the EMA and Snr Supt Garth Nelson for shutting down its Tailgate Carnival event on the Queen’s Park Savannah on February 26, 2019, two hours early for breaches to noise levels.

It was alleged that the event was exceeding decibel levels set in a noise variation granted to Wild Goose for the event. The noise variation allowed the promoters to play music at 85 decibels from 6-8 pm and 75 decibels from 8 pm-2 am.

It was alleged that the decibel levels fluctuated in the course of the night and a number of other warnings got before the event was shut down.

Mohammed ruled in favour of Wild Goose, holding that the EMA didn’t have the ability to shut down the event because the Environmental Management Act set out the procedure for coping with noise variation violations which included issuing a written warning and obtaining an injunction.

Nevertheless, Ramkissoon contended the act, under section 68(c), gave the EMA wider implied powers “to take steps under every other law.”

He pointed the judges to the relevant sections of the Summary Courts Act, the Police Service Act and the common law because it deals with breaches of the peace and public nuisances.

Ramkissoon said the judge conflated the shutting down of the sound with the shutting down of the event when the EMA didn’t stop the fete, however the source of the “noise pollution.”

He said the police could have independently stopped the fete due to a “breach of the peace” which allegedly resulted from an announcement made on the general public address (PA) system which resulted in officers of the authority’s Environmental Protection Unit being cursed at by patrons leaving the event.

Ramkissoon insisted the noise pollution rules gave an implied power to shut down the source of the “pollutant” while the common law provided protection against nuisances. He said the judge’s evaluation of the law and the evidence was “regrettable.”

In response to a suggestion by one in every of the judges that, perhaps, in the long term, it will be best for Parliament to review the prevailing laws because it pertains to noise pollution, Ramkissoon said Parliament cannot legislate every conceivable scenario.

“Do we want to put in writing within the law that which is the law?”

He added, “There’s a treatment (inferential/implied powers) to stop the music when there’s the idea a nuisance is committed…You’ve gotten immediate abatement powers as law enforcement.

“There’s an obligation to abate a nuisance.”

That power, he said, was an axiomatic power.

In response to the appeal, attorney Christopher Rodriguez, who represents Wild Goose, said the EMA and the police failed to offer evidence of a public nuisance in line with the standards of “reasonable doubt” required to support a criminal offence. He said that even when the powers of the Summary Courts Act and the Police Service Act were “swept in” under section 68(c), there was no evidence of a public nuisance or a breach of the peace.

He, too, suggested going back to Parliament to amend the laws to present the EMA the “amplified powers” to shut down any fete or event in TT.

“They don’t currently possess that power and that’s what (the judge) found. The judge pointed on the market was a comprehensive code for breaches of environmental requirements and penal sanctions…Parliament has not prescribed the ability to take immediate enforcement motion,” he said.

“To overturn this finding, they (the EMA) would have to indicate the judge was plainly improper. The judge went through the evidence thoroughly.

“There was no breach of the peace. This was not a case of breach of the peace but a breach of a noise variation.

“The court appropriately identified the great scheme of the laws…The laws gave the EMA quite a lot of powers but not the actual power that they wanted (to shut down the event.)”

Rodriguez warned the court to not “invent enforcement powers and provides it to the authority.”

“There are issues to be handled regarding noise and the way society deals with noise but that’s best left for the legislature as to how the industry and the economy work with the environment.

“Don’t read into laws that which isn’t there.”

In her ruling, Mohammed ordered the EMA and Nelson to pay $30,000 in vindicatory damages to “register the court’s strong disapproval of the defendant’s decision to shut down an event in circumstances where there was no expressed or implied authority to accomplish that.”

Ramkissoon said the promoter had accepted it violated the noise variation and had paid a $10,000 wonderful so the judge must have refused the declarations she granted and the award of vindicatory damages.

Also appearing for the EMA was Rhea Robinson while Wild Goose was also represented by Rhyjell Ellis and Joash Huggins.

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