An article in the Nation News is interesting for what it says – and doesn’t say – about the court system in Barbados. While speaking of the delays in family law situations in our court system, Chief Justice Sir David Simmons called for a “new culture” among lawyers to move cases along.
Simmons said “It isn’t fair on the parties, the counsellors, the children or the administration of justice… By the middle of next year, there will be completely new rules of court, that will radically transform the culture of litigation in Barbados. The judges will control the pace of litigation…”
The pace of the courts in Barbados has always been three steps forward and two steps back and anything that can be done to bring the pace of the justice system into the 20th Century would be welcomed. What we fear is that all these procedural changes will be viewed as somehow addressing the core problem of our judicial system – which is the unethical influence that any government of the day has over the prosecutors and the judges.
According to our Constitution, our courts are supposed to be independent of, and free from the influence of, the executive branch of our government. With a life-long professional politician and former Cabinet Member and Attorney General as our Chief Justice, no one in their right mind could say that our courts are anywhere near “independent”.
It is also true that our Chief Justice has a personal interest in the outcome of at least two cases now before his courts, yet there are no rules to govern his behaviour in this circumstance. (The two cases are the Ronja Juman case and the Kingsland matter.)
The Chief Justice and his fellow judges can talk all they want about computerisation, case management and other procedures to speed the course of justice, but all of these changes fail to address the core concern that our judicial system is built upon the corrupt foundation of political control and self-interest of the governing elites.
The Nation News Provides An Illustration Of The Lack Of Separation Between Government & Judges
As if to underline all our fears about the government, the prosecutors and the judges all being the same system, the Nation News article is called “AG: New Deal For Family Law”, but then fails to quote the AG (Attorney General) or anyone from that department in the entire article!
Instead, under the title of “AG: New Deal For Family Law”, we hear from the OLD Attorney General, Chief Justice David Simmons and then Justice Jacqueline Cornelius! Both are tight with the Owen Arthur government.
Yup, the courts, the judges, the prosecutors and the government are all the same.
Welcome to Barbados!
The Nation News – AG: New Deal For Family Law
AG: New deal for family law
Published on: 11/24/07.
by TRACY MOORE
THERE ARE MORE PROBLEMS now in family law than years ago, says Chief Justice Sir David Simmons.
“Even though we have been able in the last year to have family law applications come off a hearing in five or six weeks, still they are not brought to any conclusion within a reasonable time,” he said. “It has to stop.”
Sir David was addressing the 25th anniversary of the Family Law Act, yesterday at The Grande Salle, Frank Collymore Hall, The City.
He called for a “new culture” among practitioners to dispose of the matters.
“It isn’t fair on the parties, the counsellors, the children or the administration of justice.
“By the middle of next year, there will be completely new rules of court, that will radically transform the culture of litigation in Barbados. The judges will control the pace of litigation.
“And while this will be happening in general civil practice, and I say this as it is entirely appropriate, in family law which takes up a huge proportion of the court’s time, a similar kind of approach to family cases should be running parallel with what we are doing in the general civil practice.”
Meanwhile, Justice Jacqueline Cornelius revealed that by next year the family law council would be able to produce draft rules for case management in the Family Court, which would facilitate a speedier process.
“No real change could be achieved in the courts unless family matters were subjected to case management,” she said.
She further added that “the council has already started work on the family law rules to reflect the changes that will be made system-wide by the new civil court proceeding rules”.
Justice Cornelius also announced that for the first time in the 25-year history of the Family Law Act and the Family Law Council set up under it, funds would be granted next year to expedite the council’s agenda.
In addition, she said discussion continue as to whether a unified court was needed, that was where the magistrates and the high court were in the same space “and that space can also accommodate social services”.
“Every day it is increasingly clear that the social services need to be present within speaking distance of the judicial officer in the High Court as happen very often in the Magistrates’ Court,” she said.
She said that the council would also look to bring the amendments – especially when it came to property dispute and the definition of a union other than marriage as one where families co-habit continuously for five years – to the Family Law Act to the attention of the Attorney-General’s Office once again, adding that she hoped to see the amendments “seriously reconsidered as a matter of urgency”.