Government’s plan to tackle the worrisome issue of backlogs in the judicial system by bringing on additional judges, has been put on hold until repairs to the Supreme Court Complex at Whitepark Road are completed.
This afternoon Attorney General Dale Marshall told Barbados TODAY that the promise of three additional judges to assist the decongestion of the court system was not feasible when there are not enough secure locations to conduct criminal matters.
“In relation to criminal matters there are some practical difficulties and the completion of the work in Whitepark Road is one of those issues. In order to be able to do criminal trials there are certain arrangements that have to be put in place. You have to have cells as well as other security measures and when we looked at the cost it was not feasible,” said Marshall.
The AG explained that two courts at the Cane Garden complex are currently being used for criminal High Court matters because they already have holding cells. He said that to retrofit other courts with cells because of a temporary displacement, was simply not a good use of the taxpayer dollar, especially since additional courts are being built at the Supreme Court Complex.
“We have committed to bringing in additional temporary judges and those trials will have to take place in a court with cells. We have investigated the possibility of retrofitting a number of installations but those all prove to be challenging in terms of cost benefit analysis. Therefore, we have decided just to delay the bringing on of those additional judges until we come back to Whitepark Road. Three additional court rooms are being built in the Whitepark Road Complex. So, in these trying economic times it makes no sense to retrofit facilities for a few months,” he said.
Back in May sections of the court were relocated after workers, through the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) complained that they were falling ill as a result of environmental issues related to mold. When the problem reared its head in April, NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith condemned the court as a “sick building”. The Civil Court and Court Registry were relocated to Manor Lodge, at a rental cost of $200,000 per month.
Last November Marshall assured the public that the Barbados Supreme Court will be back under one roof by March this year. This represents a two-month delay in Government’s original January timeline to return the Supreme Court back to its Whitepark Road home.
“I’m really holding the individuals, the contractors to this. The current estimate is that all of the work will be done by the end of February. I had anticipated that we would have been moving back in January, but we have now slipped by two months. So, we’re expecting to move back in during the month of March and I am holding everybody’s foot to the fire to make sure that this can happen,” Marshall said at the time.
“The work both inside and outside of the building is progressing and we think that we are still on target for the courts to be completed for the end of February so that the move from Warrens to Whitepark Road can be accomplished by the end of March. This is still our latest project completion and occupation date,” he stressed.