The operations of Community Legal Services, which is already facing “significant budgetary pressure”, will face further strain under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) support programme for Barbados.
Word of this from Attorney General Dale Marshall today during the admission of 48 new attorneys to the Bar during a special sitting of the Supreme Court at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
The Attorney General told the gathering which included former Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, the Registrar of the Supreme Court, the Solicitor General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, judges, magistrates and others of the legal profession that under the IMF-support programme the agency had to remain current with all of its new obligations in the issuance of legal aid certificates.
“This means that the agency will no longer be able to issue certificates and hope to be able to pay at some time in the future,” said Marshall who revealed that he had already had informal talks on the issue with the president of the Bar Association Liesel Weekes.
“ I have . . . [asked] that she canvasses with her members the possibility of attorneys giving even deeper support for the ideal of providing legal services, pro bono publico, by committing to a number of hours provided free of cost annually. This, if agreed, will help in some way to filling the breach caused by the challenges to the Community Legal Services programme,” the Attorney General noted.
He also pointed to other challenges affecting the legal sector due to the dislocation of the Supreme Court Complex at Whitepark Road, St Michael.
“But I give my assurance that these challenges are being met head-on. Cabinet will shortly be asked to award the contract for the remediation of the roof at the Whitepark Road complex and other remedial works which will see normal operations being restored in that complex within the first quarter of the next year.
“This is not only imperative, for the full integration of the operations of the Supreme Court from a single place in purpose-built facilities, it is also a financial imperative since the total rent paid for the temporary location is the sum of $210,000 per month. And this has nothing to do with the costs of locating the criminal courts . . . in the new complex at Cane Garden in St Thomas and the storage of files in a renovation vault at the old CXC headquarters at the Garrison,” he explained.
Marshall also told the new attorneys that they were coming into a profession “which finds an almost unimaginable backlog in all of our courts, and this will have serious ramifications for the sustainability of their practices”.
“In addition to providing three temporary judges to assist with the backlog of criminal and civil matters, we will be moving assiduously to set up a dedicated family court with at least two judges and also, the creation of two commercial courts,” Marshall added, saying these measures would have the effect of increasing the size of the bench and help bring efficiency to those functions and to the dispensing of justice.
He was however adamant that while these were difficult times, they were also times of great possibility and promise.
“In this selection of candidates we are to welcome specialists in areas such as maritime law, an area that is of increasing importance to Barbados and the entire region, as we look for the first time in a concerted way to look to the blue economy for our economic prosperity and for a sustainable future as we battle climate change,” he added.