Two men watch looting after Maria
Two men watch looting after Maria

Filled in March 2018, a suit, filed by eight businesses demanding EC$3million, against the Commissioner of Police, the Minister of Justice, Immigration & National Security and the Attorney General of Dominica is stuck in the system, one business owner who filed the suit said.

"We have serious issues with the civil court and so we don't know where to turn. We have been hearing talk about an additional judge to ease the backlog of cases but they seems like just talk," the businessman said.

Recently lawyers have complaint about that slow court system. Given the backlog of cases, the Dominica Bar Association (DBA) through the Chief Justice made request for an additional judge but the issue at hand is the availability of facilities in Dominica.

"We asked the Chief Justice who is amenable for an additional Judge in Dominica once the facilities are in place but we struggling for facilities for two Judges far less a third," a member of the DBA said.

The lawyer said the issue now is that government has to get the proper facilities and improve on the court system.

"In the meantime, is just frustration that we have this backlog of serious cases and nobody seems to care," the lawyer said.

During and after Hurricane Maria in September 2017 a number of businesses were on the receiving end of widespread looting.

"Members of the Police Force were seen facilitating persons involved in the looting and destruction of our clients business places," the businessmen said in a letter to government before filing the suit, claiming that this was a "breach of statutory duty and negligence."

In their statement of claim, the businesses said the police had assured the nation in an address that "the police had made all the necessary arrangements and put in place all mechanisms and would be ready to respond in full force to any emergency or accident and to ensure that persons with criminal intent would not be given the opportunity to commit and acts of lawlessness in the city and or island wide."

They further stated that the failure of the police to "preserve the good peace; prevent looting in the Claimants business places and other institutions thereby creating an unsafe and lawless environment and negligent and a breach of their statutory duties."

But in their defense, the defendants contended that the matter ought to be struck out.

"The law of the Commonwealth of Dominica does not allow or provide for a claim at common law or statute for compensation against the Defendants for loss including theft following a riot, civil commotion, strife or civil disobedience," the defendants wrote in their defense.

They continued: "The Defendants further deny that the Claimants were or are now entitled to rely on public statements made prior to the passage of Hurricane Maria. The Defendants aver that these public statements or alleged assurances were made on the basis of meteorological information available prior to the passage of Hurricane Maria and were made for public information. The earlier reports did not forecast a direct hit from a category 5 hurricane. Further, the statements were made as, and were not intended to be binding representations to individual private citizens or companies."