A prominent lawyer in the Barbados judicial landscape said Government’s decision to increase judges from eight to 13 would assist with the backlog of cases in the system.
Sir Richard Cheltenham who is also President of the Senate and a former senior Barbados Labour Party parliamentarian, welcomed the additional judges stating that it was something which was needed in Barbados judicial system.
“There is a need for the increase in judges to cope with the volume of cases coming before the court and if we have an increase in judges who are well qualified, I have no doubt that it would have the effect of causing our judicial system here to run on a more efficient basis,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Cheltenham said that there are cases in the judicial system where both the plaintiff and defendant have died without closure of their matters.
“We have cases in the system ten years or more that have not been heard and have not been determined. That is not good. We have cases in which persons both plaintiff and defendant- the person who brought the case at the civil level and the person who defended the case at the civil level are both dead and they have been dead for years and there has been no decision,” he said.
Sir Richard said when Sir David Simmons was Chief Justice more than 50 per cent of cases were throw out of court due to both the plaintiff and the defendant being deceased and their relatives not wanting to continue the case.
“When you go back you have cases dating 15 years and you have not been in touch with your client and when you are called to comment upon this delay it turns out that your client is dead. You may not have known then and when you make the inquires the fellow on the opposite side is dead,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Sir Richard was speaking before heading into the Senate Chamber today where the Supreme Court of Judicature Amendment Bill 2019 was debated. He said that the new mediation facility is not used as readily as it should and that could be one of the reasons that so many persons are turning to the law courts to seek justice on a myriad of matters.
“There is a mediation facility now available perhaps not used as readily and as much as it ought to be but the mortality is available where disputes involving simple matters can be resolved without going to the court system, but experienced lawyers do it daily. John Public may not appreciate that a lot of matters come before me and I get in contact with the lawyer on the other side and between the lawyers they settle the matters never heard in court. Perhaps enough lawyers are not doing that,” Cheltenham told Barbados TODAY.
He said that he believes that Barbados should strive to have highly competent judges and that the proposal to recruit new judges should not be restricted to Barbados alone but throughout the region and the Commonwealth to ensure that the island has the best brains on the Bench.
Support for increasing the number of judges also came from Independent Senator Monique Taitt who told Barbados TODAY that she believes that the choice of additional judges should be non-partisan.
“I think that things of that nature should always be non-partisan and they should be looking for the right person based on expertise rather than political affiliation. In any event, judges officially are not supposed to have a political affiliation. I am hopeful that right considerations would inform whatever decisions are made in that regard,” she said, adding that she believes that the additional judges are necessary to address the current backlog.