A Barbados Supreme Court judge has expressed concern about the manner in which the public perceives the country’s court system, especially when it comes to dispensing judgment in disputes between men and women.
According to Madam Justice Jacqueline Cornelius, who referenced public commentary following the recent “tragic events involving parties seeking to resolve a matrimonial conflict,” there appears to be public distrust in the courts’ ability to handle these matters.
“Whether there has been a great deal of misinformation or speculation, and I don’t intend to comment on that particular case, two things are clear. In the Caribbean, the courts are seen as a theatre of conflict as opposed to a place for solving disputes… This is very strongly seen in the comments on social media and in the public sphere, with reference to recent events,” she said during opening remarks of a gender-sensitive adjudication training for judicial officers at the Radisson Aquatica hotel this morning.
The judge’s comments coincided with the ongoing public debate surrounding the events leading to the tragic loss of Cornelius Barrow and his two minor children who perished in a fire on Wednesday. Following the tragedy, there has been public debate involving an alleged custody battle over the children which has precipitated a discussion over how courts handle matters of this nature.
This morning the Supreme Court judge took note of this public perception, stressing that while many of the concerns raised about the court may be unfounded, it was the duty of the judiciary to ensure that the public maintains confidence in the justice system.
“The other thing that we see very clearly is that there is a deep-seated distrust in the ability of the court and judicial officers to solve disputes or resolve conflict without bias. Indeed, many of the public comments express pernicious gender and class stereotypes but it is clear that the public considers the system rife with bias,” she said.
Noting that bias was embedded in many facets of life, including the Laws of Barbados, Cornelius urged her colleagues to always ensure that justice is delivered dispassionately, fairly and transparently.
“We must as judicial officers interrogate our personal biases as well as those embedded in the law and in our culture. This training is to provide a way to ensure that our judicial system is inclusive, respectful, trustworthy, transparent, neutral and accountable,” she stressed.