Barbadians are among the major beneficiaries of the Caribbean Court of Justice, and other Caribbean citizens should press their governments into signing so those people could also benefit, says CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron.
These two points were stated by Sir Dennis as he spelled out the usefulness of this facility that adjudicates on disputes within CARICOM and serves as another level of judicial appeal for citizens of regional countries that have abolished the London-based Privy Council.
Since the CCJ became functional in 2005 only Barbados, Belize, and Guyana have made internal legal changes establishing it as the final court of appeal for its citizens, although 12 CARICOM-member nations signed on, bringing the institution into existence.
He explained that one of the CCJ functions in replacing the Privy Council is to decide on cases that were heard and decided upon by a country’s Court of Appeal, but in which someone was dissatisfied and wants further review.
Citizens of nine Caribbean territories still have to take such issues to the Privy Council, which is expensive, but those from the three states that abolished the British court can use the CCJ, which Sir Dennis said is far cheaper.
Speaking about appeal cases from Barbadians to the CCJ, Sir Dennis said: “Statistics have shown that since the Caribbean Court of Justice has been the final court of appeal, the number of appeals from the appeal court has been increased by 300 per cent. And I think that has to do with the issues of cost and competitiveness.
“So there is a really important issue here, where the court has provided a final greater access to a final tier of justice,” he said while delivering the feature address to the Eighth Sarah Ann Gill Memorial lecture at Frank Collymore Hall.
Responding a question from the audience on the reason the court remains headquartered in Trinidad and Tobago despite the twin-island not using it for final appeals, Sir Dennis said, “I think that civil society, the people who would benefit from the court, ought to say something about it”.
He however made clear that though not legally signed on to the appeals function of CCJ, the Trinidad government along with the eight others have been supporting the regional institution financially and in daily services.
“The one thing they have not done is abolish the Privy Council. And I am willing to wait a bit,” he said.
At the CCJ’s formation, regional governments contributed US$100 million for a fund to finance the court into what Sir Dennis describes as “perpetuity”.
At another forum the CCJ President said that though the court has been operating since 2005, the original $100 remains intact because the facility has been existing on interest gained from that capital.