A landmark ruling by the Court of Appeal on the conduct of lower court justices has received the support of prominent attorneys-at-law.
The judgment, which was handed down last Friday by the three-member panel of Justice William Chandler and Justices Kaye Goodridge and Margaret Reifer, ruled that it was the panel’s jurisdiction to hear an appeal brought against a High Court judge.
Following a decision by Justice Michelle Weekes to deny bail to murder accused Pedro Deroy Ellis , his lawyer Larry Smith QC appealed the matter to the Court of Appeal, arguing that it had the jurisdiction to overturn Justice Weekes’ ruling.
Smith had argued that Justice Weekes had erred when she denied his client bail and that there was “no exercise” carried out by the judge to determine whether his client, if released, would breach the conditions of bail by failing to surrender to custody, committing an offence or interfering with witnesses.
Several lawyers interviewed by Barbados TODAY gave their support for the Appeal Court’s decision.
Outspoken barrister Andrew Pilgrim, QC, said he supported the ruling as it kept High Court Judges on their toes.
He told Barbados TODAY: “The decision is good, especially in the sense that it reminds High Court judges that they have to give reasons. The modern trend in almost every area of judicial deciding is that you should have to give some sort of reasons for your decisions and generally speaking everyone understands that to be their obligation.
“The challenge here is that I think my colleague has scored a paper victory in terms of making sure that High Court judges dealing with bail are aware that they can be an appeal of their process and I think that’s important. It’s good for people to know that there is a check and a balance in what they do.
“However, in general we’ve made do without it because the High Court tends to be willing to review their own decisions every three to four months afterwards, which I think is a good trend because it keeps all of us on our toes in terms of the delay.”
Another defence attorney, Dennis Headley, argued that all accused persons had the right to bail.
Headley said: “It’s always a good thing to be able to appeal anyone’s decision because not always do we get it right, so it’s good to have a recourse in a case when someone does something that is questionable.
“It’s your legal right to bail.”
A defence lawyer who asked not to be identified told Barbados TODAY the ruling was a “blessing in disguise”.
He said he believed that in too many cases High Court judges were wrongfully denying bail to the accused.
“It gives accused persons another avenue to turn too, because in some instances it feels as though some High Court judges make decisions without any basis,” he said.
“Once the Court of Appeal can hear these appeals in a timely manner I think it is a wonderful development.”