Former Attorney General Dale Marshall has warned that prolonged backlogs in the court system are frustrating Barbadians and could force them to take the law into their own hands.
Addressing a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) rally over the weekend at Rices Playing Field in St Philip, the area represented by Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, Marshall said the current legal adviser to Government had presided over a state of affairs that has seen the judicial system “grinding to a halt”.
The BLP legislator quoted figures from 2013 to 2016 during which he said only 136 written decisions had been handed down from 8,122 that had been filed before the High Court.
He blamed this in part on a shortage of judges, complaining that there were only eight judges to handle the thousands of cases during that period, a problem, he said, for which Brathwaite must be held responsible.
“By any measuring stick, the performance of the Attorney General of Barbados has been less than stellar . . . .You could even afford to call it dismal,” Marshall said.
“What the Attorney General, the representative for this constituency, has to show is a judicial system that has come to a halt,” he added.
Pointing out that “law courts are there to dispense justice and we have way too many cases in our law courts that have been there for five and six years,” Marshall warned: “When Barbadians cannot find justice in the law courts because the system is too slow, because we do not have enough judges, because of all the inefficiencies that this Democratic Labour Party has allowed to occur in the system, then people will be forced to seek their own form of justice”.
“Sometimes the embarrassment is that some of the people who brought the cases have died,” he added.
“When you have a situation where thousands of cases are being filed every year, but in any one year only…10 or 12 are disposed of, sooner or later that system will cease to function.
“It will be like the South Coast Sewerage Plant, but there will be no manholes through which the sewage can escape.”
Marshall accused Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and the Attorney General of refusing to comment on, or take steps to, ease the court backlog.
“It does not suit them to say anything about it because they not only do not know what to do about it; they have little interest in doing anything about it,” he charged.
Speaking after Marshall, BLP leader Mia Mottley said a similar backlog exists in the criminal court system.
“If somebody get lock up tomorrow, they got to wait probably five to six years for their case to get heard, if you don’t intervene and fix the system,” she lamented.