The Barbados Supreme Court Complex is to be closed for the next several months, as authorities continue to grapple with the environmental concerns bedeviling the building.
A decision was taken today at a meeting of court officials, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), to close the court for the balance of the week, while a full scale relocation takes place.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, which began 11 a.m. and concluded at 3 p.m., Supreme Court Registrar Barbara Cooke-Alleyne disclosed that it would be months before workers could return to the complex at White Park Road, as the remedial work to be undertaken was quite extensive.
Cooke-Alleyne said she did not know when the building would be re-opened, but revealed that plans were in place to retrofit the CLICO building at White Park to accommodate the courts in the next two weeks.
In the interim, the Registration Department will operate from the Ministry of Home Affairs as of Monday, while the criminal court will be held at the new Cane Garden Complex in St Thomas. Four civil courts will operate from the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, while juvenile matters will be heard at the District ‘A’ Magistrates’ Court.
“I can’t give you a timeframe but we are hoping that it is going to be a short period of time, a literal couple of months, at most three, for us to be back in this building. The staff realized that their health is important to us, so they realize that we are doing what is best for them while ensuring that justice continues to be served,” Cooke-Alleyne said, while acknowledging that the move was expected to result in further setbacks to the already backlogged court system.
“We would have lost a couple of days’ work as you would realize, and while there is some impact there, we are making sure that we will be working come next week. Obviously we are backlogged because we had these issues for a couple of days but we would address this at our next meeting,” she said.
However, weighing in on the relocation of the court, President of the Barbados Bar Association Liesel Weekes said the situation had reached crisis proportions.
Weekes told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that the current situation had the potential to “threaten the rule of law while courting anarchy and chaos when this sector is continually ignored”.
She added that “this was happening whether advertently or inadvertently for a significant enough period of time to bring us to a crisis situation”.
“This just adds to the delay and further complicates the efficient disposal of matters. It is unfortunate that we have allowed everything to escalate to this point. Had sufficient priority been given to the sector earlier on, these issues would have been nipped in the bud and they would not have developed to the point of crisis. We have to use this as one of those teachable moments where we learn from this and try not to have this ever replicated in the future,” Weekes said.
Business at the Supreme Court Complex came to an abrupt end last Wednesday, after frustrated workers walked out due to concerns over environmental conditions.
At the time NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith had condemned the complex as a “sick building”, explaining that the roof “would have to be changed because mould is dropping down onto the workers”.
“This is a matter where the roof is not a small issue so it will have to take some time, and it is going to be a high cost to have this building repaired.
“There are other conditions that are affecting the workers at different levels because, as we know, from the time that this building was erected here they always had environmental issues because of where it is situated,” Smith had said.
Today the NUPW official said she was happy with the decision to relocate the court.
“We all have the same things in mind, which is the workers safety and health. Also, we all want a building that is up to standard in a reasonable period so that the staff and be returned,” Smith said.