Despite a leaky roof and safety concerns raised by staff and their trade union, the Supreme Court complex on Whitepark Road is to remain open.
Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson made the announcement in a statement released by the Barbados Government Information Service today in which he said tests were carried out at a number of proposed alternative work spaces for the courts’ business which found that they themselves had elevated levels of mould and other allergens.
“Until a place has been located which provides a safe environment into which we can move our operations, we will continue to work in the safe remediated spaces in the Supreme Court Complex,” the Chief Justice said, while stressing that “we cannot, and we will not, move our staff and operations into locations which are less safe for them and for the public whom we serve”.
Following industrial action by workers last month, Registrar Barbara Cooke-Alleyne announced that the neighbouring CLICO building on Whitepark would be retrofitted to accommodate the courts. She had also said that in the interim, the Registration Department would operate from the Ministry of Home Affairs; the criminal court would be held at the new Cane Garden Complex in St Thomas; the four civil courts would operate from the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre and juvenile matters would be heard at the District ‘A’ Magistrates’ Court.
However, those plans have now apparently been shelved following an emergency meeting of the Judicial Council on Monday which discussed the environmental challenges that have been plaguing the island’s main administrative court building.
Sir Marston explained that during the meeting an update was given by a team of scientists who were engaged by the Registrar and the Chief Justice last December to investigate the problems, on the areas in the building where mould and other allergens were located.
A report was also received on phased remediation work, which Sir Marston said started on the complex even before workers walked off the job in protest on Wednesday, April 11.
Since then, both the National Union of Public Workers and the Barbados Bar Association have been advising their members to stay out of the so called ‘sick building’.
However, the Chief Justice suggested today that based on the advice of the scientists there was no real need to close the entire complex or to order a cessation of work.
“It was reiterated that this [phased remediation] could have been done in a way that does not affect the health or safety of persons accessing the building,” Sir Marston said, while explaining that some courtrooms had already been closed, remediated and re-tested to ensure that they were safe for reoccupation.
“To date the spaces which have not yet been remediated and are deemed unsafe for use are court rooms 1, 3, 10 and 12. These will remain closed until remediated.
“All other areas to date should not pose a threat to the occupants and will continue to be in use until further notice,” Sir Marston added, while promising that “tests will be conducted weekly to continually assess these spaces to ensure that they pose no harm to the occupants.
He said that such tests were especially critical given reports of leaks in the roof which will necessitate some relocation.