Prime Minister Mia Mottley, has stated that the series of amendments her administration is making to the island’s Constitution, including those dealing with elements of the judicial system, are aimed at bringing archaic systems into the 21st century.
Speaking during debate in the House of Assembly this evening, she said prominent jurist, the late Sir Roy Marshall, shared that with her during the fire that destroyed the old Glendairy Prison in 2005.
“Sir Roy told me the difficulty the Commonwealth Caribbean had faced was that when we became independent we focused on housing, health care and education, but did not focus on those things that are now catching up to haunt us, like the administration of justice and our prison systems.
“But now they have reached such a point of stress that they are collapsing before our very eyes, and if we do not modernise our police, immigration and customs departments, we will be the architects of our own demise.”
She spoke specifically to the delays in judgments which have plagued the judicial system for several years, in introducing a new provision under which judges can be dismissed from the Bench if they take more than six months to deliver a decision on any matter that comes before them. She outlined once again the idea that “justice delayed is justice denied”.
“The Crown is at risk for damages because the right to due process is not delivered. There are too many people in the criminal and civil realm waiting for eight to ten years for a judgment, and in personal injury cases people cannot move forward because the money is tied up.”
While in agreement with the new provision on the grounds for the removal of judges, Leader of the Opposition, Bishop Joseph Atherley, said the judges will need more administrative staff to help them make decisions in a more efficient fashion. “You cannot tell someone to do a job in six months when they don’t have the support they need to do their jobs properly. The integration of technology will also become an issue where this is concerned.”
The amendments also called for three new bodies to administer the human resources function in the public service, namely an Administrative, General and Professional Services Commission for general appointments to Government departments and ministries, a Protective Services Commission to manage people involved in law enforcement, customs and immigration, and a Teachers’ Service Commission.