Government is expected to begin tackling a worrying backlog of cases in the courts from next week, when a refurbished Supreme Court complex opens at Whitepark Road, Attorney General Dale Marshall has told Barbados TODAY.
The building, home to the High Courts and Registration Depearment has been closed since last May due to environmental issues. The closure and move of courts to office complexes in Manor Lodge and Cane Gardens, had hindered the appointment of additional judges to clear the case backlog, according to Marshall.
He revealed that the Court Registry has already begun moving back into the building and by next week the High Courts are to follow suit.
A late notice issued by the Government Information Service advised that the Registration Department is to reopen on Monday at Whitepark Road, and not Thursday, as previously announced.
The notice added: “Urgent applications for births, deaths, the registering of deaths, marriage certificates and the registering of marriages where the parties are non-resident will continue at the Whitepark Road, St. Michael complex. Meanwhile, certificates that were to be collected on or before March 21 may be collected up to Friday, March 29, at the complex.
“Court will continue to be heard at the Manor Lodge Complex and the Cane Garden Complex until Friday, April 5.”
Earlier, the Attorney General said: “All of the work at the court in White Park Road is completed. The Registry has actually begun to move and by weekend they will be up and fully functioning. Next week the court themselves will move over down from Cane Garden and Manor Lodge. So, by April 7 we will have the entire White Park complex up and running again.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY back in January, Marshall explained that with the White Park complex out of commission, the long-promised three additional temporary judges to assist the decongestion of the court system was not feasible due to the lack of secure locations to hear criminal cases.
He said at the time that two courts at the Cane Garden complex were currently being used for criminal matters in the High Court because they already have holding cells. He said that to retrofit other courts with cells because of a temporary displacement, was not a good use of taxpayer dollars, especially since additional courts were being built at the Supreme Court Complex.
Today, the Attorney General reported that all systems were still go for the appointment of the temporary judges as well as new permanent judges. He explained that priority would be placed on the 65 murder cases backed up in the system, which would address the troubling issue of murder accused remaining too long on remand and eventually receiving bail.
He revealed that Government was “still pursuing” the appointment of temporary judges to help clear the backlog of criminal cases.
“We are committed to ensuring that trials take place in a speedy fashion but with over 1,000 indictable matters awaiting trial and two High Court judges, that is an impossible equation. We are going to eliminate some of the cases that are too old to prosecute properly. We are also asking the Director of Public Prosecutions to prioritise murder cases. It is evident based on what has been happening in Barbados that we deal with these murder trials.
“We are using two different strategies. We are providing for judges on a permanent basis and the Prime Minister has set up an appointments committee and the chairman of that committee is Sir David Simmons.”
Marshall also revealed that Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson is to join other notable jurists on the committee.
But the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs revealed that future searches for new judges will not just be limited to Barbados, to ensure the expediency without compromising transparency and quality. He declared that there will be no watering down of justice and that the new measures will clear up a significant portion of the backlog within 18 months.
Marshall said: “It will be impractical to do 60-plus murder trials in a short space of time because we still have to make sure that the trials are done properly. It is in the interest not just of the accused but also in the interest of the society that the court deals with murder cases and all cases in a methodical way. I hope to eliminate much of this backlog in the next 18 months.” (CM)