by Shawn Cumberbatch
Concerns about a widening “crisis” in the administration of justice in Barbados and the chances of a confrontation over it have escalated.
The Barbados Bar Association, faced with a disappointing response to recent correspondence on the matter sent to its 800 members, has summoned them to a special meeting next week.
The main item on the agenda is the status of efforts to initiate discussions with Chief Justice Marston Gibson and the related resolution of problems with the operation of the criminal and civil court system.
But even before the island’s large legal fraternity gathered to talk and make recommendations, their initial response has “frustrated” their outspoken President Andrew Pilgrim.
It was two Friday’s ago that the Bar’s council first wrote members and suggested they take action to help resolve major problems related to the running of the Supreme Court Complex, including the Registration Department. Action suggested included some form of industrial action at the facility.
Today, however, it was revealed that after less than one per cent of the association’s members responded to that letter, a decision was made to meet on the issue.
This was done via a notice circulated to members by the Bar’s Honorary Secretary Sean Lewis, in which all lawyers who are member of the body were asked to indicate their attendance or non attendance at a special general meeting.
A copy of the correspondence bearing today’s date and obtained by this publication said it would be held next Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Bar’s headquarters in Perry Gap, St. Michael.
The agenda was a “review of Bar Association’s correspondence to the Chief Justice dated August 16, 2012 sent in accordance with the resolutions of the Special General Meeting of the Members of the Bar Association held on March 30, 2012 and the response of the Chief Justice dated August 16, 2012”, and an “outline of Bar Council’s proposed approach to resolve the issues plaguing the administration of justice”.
Indication that this was the next step came today from Pilgrim, who said the intention was to “meet with the membership”.
“They will have their say and we will see where we go from there,” he added.
The attorney-at-law, though not surprised, found the response from his members frustrating, but said there was a bigger worry related to the administration of justice here.
“There are 800 lawyers in Barbados, some are going to push, some are going to pull and are some going to say that if we try to be forceful we are being too aggressive,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“Some are going to say if we don’t do anything forceful we are no use so it is a bit of a difficult position to please everybody, and others still are going to try to make it a political football where it is Andrew Pilgrim versus Marston Gibson.
“I am solution based, I want any and everyone to offer me solutions to these problems. I have mine, but I suspect that we have to go back to the general body for a meeting for people to have the opportunity to say what they think is the best thing to do.
“The problem is that in these scenarios you meet and you meet and you meet and you don’t do anything, and I don’t want anybody to say ‘Well Pilgrim is a ragamuffin rascal and he is trying to take over the court or anything’, but we need solutions to very serious problems,” he added.
Pilgrim also made it clear he had no problem with Gibson, and said “the chief justice’s mind is in the right place, his heart is in the right place, he wants to make this place better and that is the sense I get from him”.
Today, other lawyers were also unhappy with the operation of the island’s justice system, including Wilfred Abrahams, the last Bar president, and fellow attorney-at-law Liesel Weekes.
“Justice in Barbados is grinding to a halt, the courts are completely inefficient and the litigants are suffering,” Abrahams said
“It has gone past crisis, it is now critical. When you hear lawyers actually debating whether to strike or not then you know it has gone past crisis to absolutely critical. It cannot get any worse than it is right now. Actually, I am afraid that they are going to try to prove me wrong.”
Weekes said, “largely our problems are with the scheduling of matters at the court”.
“You have a situation where people are just sitting around, a tremendous amount of productive man hours are wasted on a daily basis,” she stated.
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