A Barbadian lawyer whose clients are being impacted by delays in the court system is not jumping for joy in the wake of Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson’s a new directive aimed at clearing a longstanding backlog of High Court civil cases.
Reacting to the implementation of the new practice direction on backlog reduction/status hearings effective the beginning of last month, attorney-at-law Satcha Kissoon told Barbados TODAY he saw the new action as “a reasonable start to the process of addressing what has become a crisis situation in the administration of justice”.
But Kissoon was concerned not only about the court’s capacity to solve 19 years worth of cases, but its ability to simultaneously deal with other judicial matters at a time when litigants “are still appearing at court and not having their current matters dealt with”.
“My concern is whether we have enough judges to deal with 19 years of backlog and the amount of cases being filed under the new Civil Procedure Rules as well,” he said.
“These new rules require far more focused energies of all parties, especially the court, which is now directly responsible for the conduct of all steps in cases in Barbados. These new rules have timelines which have to be adhered to but are controlled by the court, as opposed to the old rules, which were mostly litigant driven.
“I do not however think this Practice Direction alone will do anything to resolve the problems as they presently stand. Litigants are still appearing at court and not having their current matters dealt with. We still continue to have daily occurrences of the court not having files when litigants appear at court,” he added.
Kissoon said the challenges were persisting, although attorneys and litigants “were promised that this would be a thing of the past with the new computer systems supposedly enabling judges to view the files digitally but this happens rarely, if at all”.
“Litigants also still attend court, for a hearing set far in advance, and are told that the judges are not there, with no previous notice to the parties and so must return for another day. This is unfair to the citizens who cannot get the matters dealt with,” he said.
“We need to be clear that there is a lot of work left to be done and whereas we have started, there is a lot left to be fixed which this current practice direction cannot achieve on its own.” (SC)