Charlestown –Nevis-Two Environmental Health officers on Nevis, left the Charlestown Magistrate court, with all smiles on Friday 9th September.
It was an obvious moment of great relief as they had been involved in a historic landmark case, which had taken up several weeks.
The two officers of the Environmental Health department who were involved in defending a law suit brought against them, are Javier Ottley and Merville Morton.
The summarized facts of the case, as presented to the learned Magistrate, her honour, Donna Harris are as follows:
Mr. Kirthly Morton of Fenton Hill, Gingerland had invested in a mobile Food cart, which in its sophisticated state, provided for proper storage of hot and cold items.
Apparently he had not had any formal word with the officers of the Health Department but one of the witnesses, Mr. Shane Browne, acted in the capacity as a sort of liaison.
According to Mr. Browne’s testimony, when Inspector Ottley saw the cart for the first time, he was overly impressed and even took pictures.
He indicated that he got bits of advice as regards improvement to the proposed operation, which he duly passed on and which were completed.
On the morning of Monday 6th June, Mr. Morton commenced operation at a premises located at Cedar Trees in Charlestown, with the cart being operated by a young lady who has a valid Food Handlers’ permit.
The Health officers were alerted as to the operation and the two gentlemen showed up at the site and instructed the young lady to close the operation, which she proceeded to do forthwith.
In his testimony, Mr. Morton indicated that he received a very demanding phone call from Mr. Merville Morton who instructed him to show up at the site immediately.
He informed him that he was unable to come at that point.
Shortly thereafter, the two Health Officers proceeded to dump all of the food into garbage bags with the stated reason given, that the food was CONTAMINATED.
Mr. Kirthly Morton proceeded to sue the two Government officials for his stated loss of approximately $1,010.00. A first case of this nature to be tried in Nevis.
In the court of law, Mr. Kirthly Morton was represented by Mrs. Cindy Herbert of the firm known as JHT Law and the two defendants were represented by Ms. Rhonda Nisbett-Browne of the Government’s legal office.
Both lawyers delved into various aspects of the law and issues pertaining to proper permission to operate the cart; inspection of the cart; and the determination that the food was contaminated without relevant tests being done etc were debated.
Her honour even drove to the site on one of the court days, to have a close up look at the food cart and its surroundings, in order to assist her in making her final determination.
Both lawyers after making their respective presentations in court, were asked to make written submissions to the learned magistrate.
On Friday 9th September, Magistrate Donna Harris made her ruling in favour of the two Health officials, indicating that Mr. Kirthly Morton had not applied for nor received written approval to operate the business.
The two officers were obviously elated and were seen shaking hands with and hugging some of their supporters close to the courthouse.
A despondent Kirthly Morton on the other hand, indicated that he would have to settle for his loss, even though he is now of the view that the two officers have been given free license to bull doze other Food business owners in whatever manner it pleases them.
He is still confused as to how food can be determined to be CONTAMINATED when no relevant tests were conducted to prove such. He is also bemused that an order was given to close the operation and when it was being complied with, the food was still taken and dumped.
He also finds it strange that to the best of his knowledge, no other Street vendor in the Federation of St.Kitts and Nevis, has written permission to operate such businesses.