Barbados’ highest appellate court, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), has yet again condemned the lower courts’ “unacceptable” delays in delivering judgments, issuing a strong call for an apology to the affected parties.
A real estate dispute, which took the Court of Appeal in Bridgetown four years to decide on, prompted CCJ justice Denys Barrow to issue the rebuke as the Port of Spain-based court delivered the last word on the case.
While declaring that the delay did not prejudice the lower court’s decision, Justice Barrow described the hold-up as serious and unacceptable.
He cited a concurring judgment by CCJ Justice Peter Jamadar who had some strong words for Barbados when he referred to Sections 18 and 84 of the Barbados Constitution relating to the delay in the delivery of judgments.
Justice Barrow said his colleague found that “based on an outer time standard of reasonableness for the delivery of judgments of six months, this delay of four years was unacceptable.”
He added: ”In cases such as this, the minimum that should be done, is to offer an explanation to the parties for the delay and an appropriate apology. Not that these could exempt the fault, but maybe they could rescue in some small measure, public trust and confidence in the administration of justice in Barbados.”
Back in February 2016, the CCJ criticised delays in the judicial system as it sent back four criminal appeals for hearing in the lower courts.
The CCJ levelled the criticism as it delivered a decision in four jointly-heard applications for leave to appeal. It directed that all the appeals be given an expedited hearing in the Barbados Court of Appeal, noting that the appellants who were sentenced to 15 years would complete their terms in March 2016, possibly without their appeals being heard.
The court cited this as an example of the “inordinate systemic delay” of the Barbados judiciary and advocated, once again, that steps be taken to address this situation.
Back in December 2017, with a looming general election campaign, then Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said the Barbados judicial system had been “unnecessarily slandered” by the CCJ and threatened to pull out of the court.
Up to that time, the CCJ had blasted the Barbadian justice system over delays no fewer than on three occasions.
Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana are the four CARICOM member states which subscribe to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ in civil and criminal matters.
The other member states are at various levels of decision-making on replacing the law lords of the Privy Council with the CCJ. But all the states are party to the CCJ’s original jurisdiction which arbitrates disputes under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-nation bloc.