The new law year began short of three extra judges on the bench, to tackle the backlog of cases in the judicial system.
Attorney General Dale Marshall said the Government’s plans for the temporary judicial appointments were “fairly advanced” but were delayed owing to a “number of physical challenges” as other work commitments prevented some justices from taking up their seats on the bench.
But at least two of those “very eminent jurists” will be in place by early next year, the Government’s chief legal adviser said.
The Minister for justice also promised the High Court’s return to the Supreme Court complex at Whitepark at the start of the New Year. The courts and registration departments remain at Manor Lodge, St Michael while their original home undergoes industrial cleaning.
“We had anticipated making those appointments by September 1st [but] the challenge is that some of the individuals with whom we have had discussions [and] would have expressed their willingness . . . are actually committed to other jurisdictions . . . . So those individuals will not be available to service our court needs until in one instance in January and in another instance a little later in the year,” the Attorney General told reporters.
He was speaking following the annual ecumenical service to mark the start of the 2018-2019 year, held at The Church of Christ The King, Rock Dundo, St Michael, this morning.
Stressing that the three justices were all Barbadian nationals, he said that although not opposed to “cross fertilization of judicial thinking” from the Caribbean and beyond, the calibre of individuals was “very high”.
Marshall said even if the Government were in a position to recruit the judges immediately there were currently no facilities to housed them at this time given that the High Court’s White Park Road home is closed due to environmental and other challenges and “is expected to be available to us in January”.
“We all know we have a financial challenge . . . . A few of the items have ended up costing in some respects significantly more than we had anticipated . . . so we have to make some financial adjustments. So these are the kind of things that you can’t absolutely predict,’ said the Attorney General.
The Government said it was committed towards a January restoration of full court service at White Park Road although there is the slight possibility of a small delay, the Attorney General said.
“Even if we were to be in a position to recruit those judges immediately, we have to find space for them. Obviously the facilities at Manor Lodge did not contemplate having two or three additional High Court judges so you would actually have to find additional space,” he added.
Apart from the temporary judges Marshall disclosed that his office was also looking at other strategies to deal with the backlog of some 1,030 indictable matters.
“We are going to have to make a decision about prosecuting some of them. Some of these criminal matters that date back to 2004, I suspect that the memory of these people will begin to fail after five years far less approaching 14 years. Others I don’t want to say that they are not serious because any criminal matter is serious but we have to make some strategic decisions. We want to fast track all of the homicide cases, all of the manslaughter cases, all the serious crime, any crime with a firearm all those cases will be given priority,” he said.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Queens Counsel Donna Babb-Agard, was currently examining those cases to determine the way forward, the Attorney General and said.
“The DPP is doing an examination of all of those cases, over 1030 plus, to see which cases are appropriate for the Crown to abandon a prosecution. That will begin to get rid of some of those cases.
Marshall also suggested that the systems in the court registry be made “more efficient.
“So we are going to embark shortly on an e-filing platform that court documents will be filed electronically. These are some of the things that we are going to be doing to make the system more efficient,” he added.