Many of the issues causing a backlog in the courts are systemic, and the Barbados Bar Association says it is time to stop pointing fingers at lawyers alone and start employing solutions.
Responding to an article published over the weekend in another section of the Press, in which Chief Justice Sir Patterson Cheltenham chastised attorneys for contributing to delays and backlogs in the system, president of the Bar, Rosalind Smith-Millar QC said there were many contributing factors to the long-running issue.
On several occasions, Barbados’ sloth system of adjudicating legal matters, has been heavily criticized by the country’s final appellate court, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Smith-Millar, criticised the newspaper’s handling of the article, saying it created the “impression that the Honourable Chief Justice of Barbados made sweeping comments attributing the backlog in the Justice system solely to lawyers”, when he was chastising “specific attorneys‐at‐law for not being present for a particular Court of Appeal hearing”.
The Bar president said attributing blame for a large number of appeals “lying idle” in the system on lawyers, only served to “sow seeds of division and tension between the various stakeholders in the system of administration of Justice who are tasked with the responsibility of serving the needs of the public, and who strive to correct its many ills”.
At the same time, Smith-Millar acknowledged that while some attorneys-at-law were to be blamed for not acting in a timely manner, the existence of “cases lying idle in the system” could be ascribed to many factors, including system-wide challenges.
According to the Bar president, there were “inefficiencies in the Registration Department of the Supreme Court which have led to files being unavailable, and delayed dates of hearing”.
In addition, she cited “insufficient or inadequate human and other resources in various government departments, resulting in untenable delays, including delays in obtaining necessary reports or enforcing judgments”.
The Bar said, the Bench too, was also to be blamed for some of the backlogs and delays as “written decisions or reasons for decisions of some Magistrates and first‐instance Judges [remained] outstanding for inordinate lengths of time which hinders timely progression of appeals, a deficit which the Caribbean Court of Justice often mentions”.
In defence of practitioners, Smith-Millar insisted that all these issues had collectively served to “hinder the public in resolving disputes and advancing their personal and business interests”.
According to the statement issued Sunday, Smith-Millar said the current situation with backlogs and delays in the dispensing of justice “could be ameliorated if all of the participants in the Justice System (lawyers, judicial officers and support functionaries alike) efficiently and effectively undertake their roles”.
She called for an end to the finger-pointing, adding that the Bar was prepared to work with the various arms of the legal system to begin an earnest process of correcting the situation.
“This can only be done if all stakeholders in the Justice System work together to identify where the challenges lie and implement strategies to fix them,” she added. (IMC1)