By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
ATTORNEYS for Canadian Bruno Rufa yesterday requested the appellate court to order Director of Immigration William Pratt to allow their client entry into the country to attend scheduled legal hearings after being denied entry on several previous occasions.
Fred Smith, QC, told Court of Appeal President Dame Anita Allen and fellow Justices Stella Crane-Scott and Roy Jones that it was a “horrendous abuse of the rule of law” for Mr Rufa to not be granted entry into the country to attend yesterday’s hearing.
Mr Smith said the matter is further aggravated by the existence of a letter written to the Attorney General and Immigration Director William Pratt on June 23, in which Mr Smith made an “immediate request for permission for Mr Rufa to be able to return to the Bahamas with his partner Sandra Georgiou as he has customarily done in the past.”
At the time, Mr Rufa was due to appear in court three days later on the 26, which ultimately did not happen and forced an adjournment to yesterday’s date. Prior to that, according to Mr Smith’s letter, Mr Rufa was not allowed to return to the Bahamas for hearings in the Court of Appeal and the criminal court on “several occasions.”
In response to Mr Smith’s submissions, Loren Klein, counsel for the respondent, said subsequent to the June 23 letter, Mr Smith had “gone silent” and did not “follow up” on the matter.
He said the immigration department was more than willing to facilitate Mr Rufa’s access to the country, but only if Mr Smith honoured protocol and requested permission prior to the relevant scheduled hearing.
And given the department’s preparedness to grant Mr Rufa, Mr Klein suggested there was no need for the court to make an order for Mr Rufa’s attendance.
Dame Anita Allen disagreed with Mr Klein’s submissions, however, stating that at the very least, the department of immigration could have responded to Mr Smith’s letter. She further questioned the reason why Mr Rufa hasn’t been – given that he is not on the stop list, the restricted list, and neither does he have any convictions.
Justice Crane-Scott, however, noted the “argumentative” tone that pervaded Mr Smith’s letter to the respondents, and submitted that the effect of Mr Smith’s letter and the words contained therein likely had on its recipients were akin to “a red flag to a bull.”
Thus, Justice Crane-Scott said she wasn’t surprised by the lack of a response to Mr Smith’s letter, and said the Queen’s Counsel would have been better served by writing a “simple letter” to the department advising of the need for Mr Rufa’s entrance into the country.
In response, however, Mr Smith submitted that he did not see the need to write a letter for each time Mr Rufa is scheduled to appear in court.
Mr Smith also said he did not want to become beholden to a process that doesn’t exist in law.
Dame Anita, in stressing that the court was not making an order for Mr Rufa’s attendance, moved to quell the cyclical nature of the discussion by suggesting that the matter be adjourned to November 10.
In the interim, she said Mr Klein should inform the Department of Immigration of the same, and that Mr Rufa should make every attempt to attend.
However, should Mr Rufa not be allowed into the country to attend the upcoming hearing, Dame Anita said the court would be “minded” to make an order for his attendance.
On the issue of costs, Dame Anita said the court will deal with the matter towards the end of the Mr Rufa’s appeal hearing.
Mr Rufa was due to appear before the Court of Appeal yesterday for a hearing in connection with his appeal of certain portions of Supreme Court Justice Petra Hanna-Weekes’ April 8, 2016 judgment on the judicial review case he won against the director of immigration.
At the the time, Mr Rufa had successfully challenged the Director of Immigration’s decision to revoke permission given to him on November 20, 2015 to land and remain in the Bahamas for 150 days until April 20, 2016.
Mr Smith submitted at the time that the decisions taken by the immigration director were irrational and procedurally unfair and/or breached the rules of natural justice given Mr Rufa’s long history in the Bahamas. Mr Rufa owns a unit at Coral Beach Condominiums in Freeport and has resided in the Bahamas for the past 20 years.
In January 2015, the Canadian was arrested by immigration officers and charged for allegedly working in the Bahamas without a work permit.
The department of immigration also brought a criminal prosecution against Mr Rufa, however they later withdrew it, according to Mr Smith.
According to Mr Smith, Mr Rufa owns a unit at Coral Beach Condominiums in Freeport and has resided in the Bahamas for roughly 20 years.
However, Mr Rufa is no longer a director of the Coral Beach Management Company – a position he previously held for many years.