Vacancies in the Magistrates’ Court are a major concern for Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, but he said any new appointments were out of his hands.
“It is not within my power, I do not assign magistrates nor do I move the magistrates elsewhere,” he said, as the Barbados Bar Association made urgent calls for authorities to fill the “crippling void” in the country’s judicial system created by the appointment of Justice Pamela Beckles to the Supreme Court seven months ago.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the legal fraternity complained that the failure to appoint a Chief Magistrate to replace Beckles, who also sat in the District ‘B” Magistrate’s Court, had led to a “deterioration in the efficiency” of the justice system and action was urgently needed to stop the situation from getting worse.
Acknowledging that he was aware of the “issue” that got in the way of the appointments, the Attorney General did not give details but said it was up to the Judicial and Legal Services Commission to rectify the problem.
“Like you, I would have been concerned about the fact that a magistrate has not been assigned to the Oistins Court, but I am aware that it has been addressed or that it is being addressed. I was told why there was an issue, but that is a matter for the Judicial and Legal Services Commission. It is not a matter for the Attorney General.”
The Bar Association noted that while Christopher Birch has been acting as Chief Magistrate, sitting at District ‘C” Magistrates Court at St Matthias in addition to hearing all bail applications originating from District ‘B’, the responsibilities and duties of a Chief Magistrate were “too vast and essential” to be left without a permanent occupant indefinitely.
“This current state of affairs must no longer be tolerated. Our justice system has already been soundly criticized by the Caribbean Court of Justice as being burdened with delays and case backlogs. These vacant posts have placed a further extraneous strain on our Magisterial Division,” it said in the statement.
The Bar advised there were sufficient “qualified and competent magistrates ready and willing and able to fill the position of Chief Magistrate”, while “a plethora of attorneys-at-law and legal officers who are eminently qualified”were available for appointment as magistrates.