Saint Kitts and Nevis
Damages, Evidence
This was a private prosecution brought by the appellants against the respondent for removing a natural barrier against the sea. The National Conservation and Environment Protection Act provided that no person should remove any natural barrier against the sea; any person who removed any natural barrier against the sea was guilty of the offence and was liable on summary conviction to a fine. There was a sandbar off the coast of Nevis, running roughly parallel to the coastline. It was approximately 200 yards from the shore at its closest point. In 2000, a dredge belonging to the respondents removed approximately 80,000 cubic yards of sand from the sandbar and deposited it on the beach. This beach had previously sustained damage from erosion during a hurricane. There was evidence that a sandbar served as a breakwater. As the waves came in from the sea they lost a significant amount of energy as they crossed the bar and that protected the coast behind it. With the sand that had been removed it was now a less effective natural barrier against the sea. The court had to answer the question whether the words “remove any natural barrier against the sea” meant removing the whole of a natural feature forming the barrier or so much of it that it was no longer an effective barrier, or removing anything that was a natural barrier whether or not forming part of larger natural feature. The court interpreted the statutory provisions as well as judicial precedents. It concluded that while the sandbar remained with its reduced size, its effectiveness as a protection to the beach had been diminished. An offence was committed if material was removed which before its removal had caused the waves to lose a significant amount of their energy or if the effect of the removal was to decrease significantly the protection of the coast. The court should enquire whether “any barrier” had been removed and not whether “the sandbar” had been removed. The lower Magistrate Court had fallen into error when it had concluded that the natural barrier against the sea was the sandbar and that in order for the offence to be committed the sandbar had to be removed. The appeal was allowed.