The Barbados Bar Association (BBA) is throwing its support behind outspoken attorney-at-law, Andrew Pilgrim’s QC, over his harsh criticism of the time-wasting in the Barbados court system.
On Wednesday a frustrated Pilgrim questioned why cases were being scheduled for dates when a sitting Magistrate was on holiday, causing a slowdown of an already overwhelmed system.
This morning president of the BBA Liesel Weekes told Barbados TODAY that Pilgrim was in fact highlighting an issue which has been long lamented in legal circles. She explained that with the exception of the Court of Appeal, all sections of court system are plagued with similar problems.
“This is an example of what the general feeling is and it is not something that is peculiar to him. It happens habitually. We receive these complaints from our members on a regular basis and not just in the criminal jurisdiction of the court but certainly in every jurisdiction. It happens at the Magistrates’ Court and the High Court way too frequently,” Weekes said.
The BBA head highlighted the “need to have a serious look at the systems that we have in place in treating with the people’s business before the court. I have to agree that something like vacation you must know what the vacation schedule is going to look like particularly for magistrates. Therefore you should be able to schedule matters in such a way that time away from court does not conflict with matters pending.”
The seasoned attorney argued that apart from the time wastage by not fixing avoidable delays, the court was in fact being prejudicial to litigants not on bail, as delays potentially deny them access to justice.
“So I agree that it is a waste of time particularly for the litigants and it is prejudicial to a litigant who is actually incarcerated and hopeful that his matter would be dealt with as expeditiously as possible, so that it could be disposed of and the litigant can know his or her fate one way or the other,” Weekes said.
She added, “We really need to make an effort to change this and it is going to take effort on the part of all of the stakeholders in the justice system. We need to take a look at where we are actually falling short and what steps we need to take to rectify this shortcoming so that it does turn out to be a denial of access to justice in the long term.”
Pilgrim expressed his outrage after his clients, businessman Arthur Charles Herbert and Christopher Glenn Rogers, had their matters adjourned until March 27, next year when they appeared at the No. 1 District ‘A’ Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday. Sitting Magistrate, Douglas Frederick is currently on vacation. Pilgrim suggested that for the remainder of this month close to 40 litigants will return to this court daily to have the matters adjourned.
Barbados TODAY again made several attempts to contact Supreme Court Registrar Barbara Cooke-Alleyne for comment without success.