The local judiciary received a further boost on Tuesday, when two new Court of Appeal Judges, Francis Belle and Jefferson Cumberbatch, were sworn in.
They took the oath of office before acting Governor General Kenneth Hewitt, family members, Attorney General Dale Marshall, Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, and other witnesses.
The planned appointment of Belle and Cumberbatch was first announced back in September, preceding the appointment of Court of Appeal Judge Rajendra Narine; two temporary High Court Judges Laurie-Ann Smith-Bovell and Carlisle Greaves; and four High Court Judges Barry Carrington, Cicely Chase, Christopher Birch and Cecil McCarthy.
Following today’s latest swearing in, AG Marshall told journalists the appointments “complete the composition of the Court of Appeal”, adding that the two High Court judges who were acting as Court of Appeal Judges would now revert to their substantive posts.
In the case of the High Court, the Attorney General said the swearing in of Belizean Madam Justice Shona Griffith would complete the composition of that Bench.
She is expected to arrive in Barbados later this week and will be sworn in soon after.
“This will see the total complement of the bench of Barbados being filled out, and with that of course, we expect to see more matters being churned out and put through the system,” said an upbeat Marshall, who has promised to speed up the wheels of justice in Barbados.
“What is especially concerning though is as always the delay in High Court judges delivering decisions. And part of that has been the result of the tremendous workload an individual judge has, and also the absence of specialized courts,” he pointed out.
However, Marshall said there were now a total of five judges on the criminal bench, up from two, and although the backlog of criminal matters was “huge” now was not the time to “throw our hands in air”.
“We simply have to deal with it. But to go from two criminal judges to five is a significant improvement and that is going to help us to get rid of the backlog of a lot of our criminal matters, and also ensure that those troublesome matters that are coming in the system in relation to the shootings and homicides, that they will also go through the system quickly,” he promised.
At the same time, Marshall made it clear that the judiciary was not out the woods just yet and it would still take some time for matters to move through the system as new ones are presented.
“So, overall I think that the future of the delivery of justice in Barbados still has some challenges. These appointments are not expected to alleviate those challenges overnight, but they are certainly intended, over the medium-term, to be able to reduce the amount of time both civil and criminal matters spend in the judicial system,” he explained.
Cumberbatch, a leading University of the West Indies academic, said he was honoured to have been selected to serve.
“I consider it an honour to have been selected to serve on the Court of Appeal. I have been teaching over the last 30 years and this is a new form of public service,” he said.
Meanwhile, Belle, who served as a High Court Judge in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court for the past 16 years, said this would give him an opportunity to serve his country.
Acknowledging that his position was a very important one, Belle said he was aware of the delays in the system and he would do what he could to help.
“Habits have to be changed and new ways of thinking in terms of how we deal with things. Institutions need to go through changes. So I think the use of mediation for example, is something that helps to cut back the backlog,” said Belle.
“In addition, the idea that every case has a long waiting time for a judgment to be written, is something that needs to be addressed. Some judgments can be oral. Therefore as you sit and think about how you are going to decide the case and if you think it can be done quickly and still properly then an oral judgement sometimes is all that is required in some cases and that will help to speed things up,” he added.
Belle said there were also some administrative issues that had to be ironed out and he was aware that the Chief Justice is looking at some of these things.