The late Chief Justice Sir Denys Williams has been described as the perfect judge, who had only one of his hundreds of judgments overturned during his 34 years on the bench. In a glowing tribute to Sir Denys during a special sitting of the Supreme Court this morning, his immediate successor, now retired Sir David Simmons, said Sir Denys’ only decision that was overturned was at the Privy Council in 1982.
“This is an astonishing record. It was an intellectual and physical achievement which will never be rivalled,” Sir David asserted.
He told the sitting, that included Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, retired and active high court judges, magistrates, senior lawyers and the family of Sir Denys, that the late jurist was unintimidating, having a sound knowledge of the law, and decisive and prompt in delivering his judgements.
“In urgent applications, you could be assured of his decision the day after the argument finished,” Sir David recalled.
He said Sir Denys was a strong defender of the independence of the judiciary.
“He was deeply concerned that, notwithstanding the constitutional protection afforded to judges’ security of tenure, their remuneration and financial security were unsatisfactory. Financial security is a condition of judicial independence flowing from the peculiar character of the judicial function.
“Accordingly, after the change of Government in 1994, he sought improved terms and conditions for the judiciary. Making a compelling case was no easy task. He had to convince not the politicians, but their advisors of the necessity for an upgrade in the terms and conditions of the judiciary.
“He succeeded. The benefits enjoyed by all judges since 1995 are, in large measure, due to the leadership and efforts of Sir Denys,” stated Sir David.
The former Chief Justice labelled Sir Denys as a great Barbadian and a great judge.
“He was the greatest Barbadian judge of his generation,” he added.
On the lighter side, he remembered Sir Denys as a man who loved a good party, “and none more so than the annual Christmas party of the Registration Office where his humility and approachability were most evident”.
Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, who led off the tributes, recalled his brief interaction with Sir Denys in 1981 to 1982, when he was the editor-in-chief of the Barbados Law Reports.
“To this day, my [first] impression of Sir Denys was of his deep knowledge of the law and his gracious manner; but equally importantly, his conciseness and economy of words, the latter trait not often observed in those of us trained in the law,” Sir Marston stated.
He applauded his sense of family, observing that if he were alive, Sir Denys and Lady Williams would have celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary next month.
“Sir Denys holds the record not only as the longest sitting judge in the Commonwealth, but also as a judge whose decisions were never reversed. He can never be replaced,” Chief Justice Sir Marston said.
Attornney General Adriel Brathwaite said Sir Denys carried out his duties with great dignity, was of great character and very accommodating with respect to those lawyers who appeared before him. Brathwaite said he also enjoyed a good joke and had a hearty laughter.
In his brief tribute, president of the Barbados Bar Association, Tariq Khan, said he envied his colleagues who had the opportunity to have apeared before the late Chief Justice.
“We stand in awe,” Khan exclaimed. He saw Sir Denys as one of the greatest architects of Barbados, who was characterized by humility.
“I hope we will learn from him,” the Bar Association head suggested.