With judges now facing the axe for not returning decisions within six months of the start of a case, the legal profession has sprung into action to ensure justice is not delayed for their clients.
The Barbados Bar Association (BBA) has formally asked Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson to intervene.
“What I can tell you is that I have written to the Chief Justice and asked for a meeting of the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council is the body that is responsible for establishing policy and organising the business of the court,” BBA President Liesel Weekes told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
“I have asked for a meeting of that council and I have raised as an issue to be discussed, these amendments to the legislation because obviously there must be some strategy now to deal with the existing cases that are yet to be heard, the part-heard cases that are to be concluded and the cases [where] the arguments have been concluded and the judgment remains outstanding; there must be some strategy now to be devised to deal with those things,” Weekes added.
Speaking in the House of Assembly three weeks ago on a series of constitutional amendments including those dealing with elements of the judicial system, Prime Minister Mia Mottley specifically addressed the delays in judgments which have plagued the court system for several years.
While 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, Mottley 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.”
Today, Weekes said the meeting she requested with the Judicial Council should develop a plan that brings the judges up to date so that all stakeholders would be aware they are starting with a “fresh slate” rather than from a position of having to look back to realize there is a nine or eight-year judgment outstanding.
“So that strategy needs to be devised; and I have asked for the meeting to deal with that. So that is one of the methods I intend to pursue to treat to that particular issue, she told Barbados TODAY.
Weekes stressed that it made sense to clear the existing slate of cases first in order to bring long sought relief to the many litigants waiting for closure.
“It would make sense because those litigants would have been waiting for their judgments the longest…some of them may have died. If it is the subject of property, the property may have deteriorated…accounts, unless there was some freezing order, the accounts may have been dissipated. There are so many things that affect a judgment that is outstanding. The litigants are affected most seriously. We would want those to be dealt with first,” the spokesperson for the legal fraternity said.
Asked what was the oldest case of which she knew that required a decision, the Bar Association head replied: “There are some cases that are old in the system, but they have had so many applications on them that the judgments are not outstanding. I am aware of at least one matter in which the judgment has been outstanding for seven years.”
Barbados’ judicial system has been coming under severe criticism over the years and from no less an entity than the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which has condemned the slow process to starting and concluding cases. [email protected]