With extra judges, criminal courts and a new commercial court on the way, Bar Association president Liesel Weekes believes the judiciary is one step closer to clearing a huge case backlog.
But while Weekes has praised the move, she has called for a system to be implemented to determine how that backlog will be cleared.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Attorney General Dale Marshall revealed that five new judges would be appointed and funds were being sought to establish a commercial court and more criminal courts.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Weekes agreed the proposed plans would definitely speed up processes, especially in the criminal courts.
Weekes said: “I do think that they will offer a measure of relief but this is not a single pronged problem. Additional judges and the reorganization of court business in that way and establishing dedicated criminal courts will assist.
“It certainly will help if we have dedicated criminal judges who are sitting in the criminal courts at all times and who do not have to rotate out of the criminal courts to sit in the civil court and then rotate back into the criminal court… it will help, there’s no getting around that.
“Relief will be determined by how the courts assign matters to be dealt with. The court now has to develop a strategy for treating with the backlog. Getting the personnel in place to move the files is one thing, organizing the disposal of the matters is another.”
She pointed to situations where sitting judges had already heard matters but had not been in position to hand down decisions.
The Bar head said the new courts had to be organized in a way that would see the new judges deal with new matters and existing judges dealing with matters they have outstanding.
Weekes added: “Matters now have to be prioritized in a particular way, whether it be based on age, the period of time the matter has been in the system, the length of time a decision has been outstanding or based on the type of matter it is.
”That kind of strategy has to be created. Step one is getting personnel in place to implement strategy, but step two is developing that strategy to get rid of the backlog.”
Prominent Queens Counsel Andrew Pilgrim is also excited about the proposed plans, telling Barbados TODAY he was especially looking forward to the improvements to the criminal justice system.
Pilgrim said: “It is my view that the introduction of the new judges on the criminal side of things is definitely going to make a difference and will help to expedite the situation.
“All of these changes are not going to help us overnight, but I think we are all moving in the right direction and things will definitely improve.”
The veteran criminal lawyer said other initiatives such as the introduction of Maximum Sentence Indication Hearings would also lead to a more efficient judiciary.
Pilgrim said he was also pleased to see the Attorney General taking steps to “ensure that people can get more access to the criminal court and get their matters dealt with more quickly, especially those who want to plead guilty”.
He said rather than criticize the new measures he was happy that they were pushing the country in the right direction.
Pilgrim added that he would like to see the introduction of plea bargaining at some stage.