Patrick R. Hoyos: Poor Barbados justice system frightens away foreign investors

“Where is the justice?”

Editor’s comment: This article by Patrick Hoyos brilliantly explains what is probably one of the most destructive forces in our society and economy – the inability of our justice system (for a variety of reasons) to deliver justice. Bajans have long known that our highly politicized and under-funded justice system cannot be relied upon, and that “Rule of Law” in Barbados means that those in positions of power can change or ignore the rules and the law without accountability.

The big problem for the elites is that with the advent of the internet, Barbados lost the power to control information. Thus, foreign investors and people who might be thinking about doing business in Barbados now know that business disputes typically take decades to resolve before the Barbados courts. Smart money runs from doing business in such a jurisdiction.

Increasingly international investors and companies are happy to have their money flow through Barbados to other jurisdictions – but invest or do business here? Leave the money here? Now that’s something else.

We’ve reprinted Patrick’s article here in full, lest someone pressure him to remove it from his own website, but we ask you to read the full article at The Broad Street Journal. If you live, do business or invest in Barbados, you’ll soon find yourself visiting The Broad Street Journal on a daily basis and eagerly anticipating the next article.

A bridge too far

By Patrick R. Hoyos    Published May 24, 2011

It is now three months since I wrote in this space about The Tribunal That Won’t Deliver its Judgment.

Three months since I noted that, despite having to wait three years after winning their case in court to have hearings before the Severance Payments Tribunal to determine the “quantum of severance,” and nearly a year since those hearings had ended, no judgement had yet been delivered.

Three months since I pointed out the frustration felt by all of the plaintiffs that justice for them seemed only to exist on paper but could not find its way into coin of the realm.

Three months since I pointed out that one of the plaintiffs had died without receiving his settlement.

I asked then, “Where is the justice?”

Up to late last week, as far as I understand, nothing had changed.

The fact that the case continues unresolved makes it an “unsolved mystery,” because all of the evidence is in, all of the summations have been made, the whole system has done what it was supposed to do, except deliver a judgement.

You will remember the bare bones of the matter: When Sagicor acquired Life of Barbados in 2003, it took the position that the agents of the acquired company were independent contractors and thus not eligible for redundancy payments before being rehired by Sagicor.

Sir David summarised the case before him as follows:  “The issue for determination raises the perennial question: Are the workers engaged under a contract of service, or under a contract for services?”

The former chief justice found for the defendants, stating that “The picture which emerged are that the defendants are professional persons engaged by Sagicor to sell its products. None of the defendants was free to set his/her own standards of performance.”

After many delays, the Severance Payments Tribunal heard the matter relating to how much, if any, severance would therefore be due to the agents, as they had won their case. The hearings wrapped in April. April 2010, that is.

The problem seemed to have been that the tenure of the tribunal’s chairman, Mr. Elson Gaskin, expired on April 2, 2010.

But either swearing him back in or getting a new chairman to take over and deliver the judgement has so far proven a bridge too far for the Barbados justice establishment.

There seems no solution in sight.

Will one or the other of the options described above be someday applied? Or will something else happen? Like maybe ordering the whole thing to be re-heard? Or will we continue as we are – doing a whole lot of nothing – for a few more years?

Only God and the Solicitor-General’s Office seem to know.

How can we as a country set up tribunals to deal with cases like these only to have people kept on the hook for indeterminate lengths of time, with no word at all about what in tarnation is going on?

Are those who deliver justice in this country so far above ordinary people that the latter should just sit and be quiet until whenever it is deemed that a solution will be applied?

Is nobody on the justice side embarrassed by this? Does nobody on the justice side care about the hardship being caused to the people awaiting judgment, or more broadly about the harm this inaction may be doing to the reputation for timeliness of our system of justice?

How do we expect our politicians and businessmen to go out and tell foreigners to come here and invest because we have the greatest justice system and that if they ever find themselves in a contractual dispute they will have rulings handed down in reasonable timeframes?

The pathetic inability of the institution that is the Severance Payments Tribunal to conclude this matter, for whatever reason, will do nothing for those efforts.

In my view, it only helps drive another nail into the coffin of our attempts to get more Foreign Direct Investment into this country.

If you can’t see a direct correlation between the two, dear reader, I probably won’t be able to convince you.

Meanwhile, the primary individuals in the matter continue to await justice.

May it please the court.

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19 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Crime & Law, Offshore Investments

19 responses to “Patrick R. Hoyos: Poor Barbados justice system frightens away foreign investors

  1. Commander

    Honestly I get frustrated just reading these stories. Either the judiciary is extremely lazy or they are just not being given the tools or manpower to work with …………………. which is it or is there a combination of the 2.

  2. J. Payne

    Barbados I think needs to create a Ministry of Justice, Legal Affairs (and Constitutional reform) Within which would perhaps go the Chief Justice, and ministerial post known as Attorney-General plus a division that looks at the blockage of the courts in Barbados system AND makes recommendations on future amendments or other aspects on modernisation of the Constitution.
    I actually like what The Bahamas did with the British Privy Consul where they actually invite the law lords down from London once a year to decide their cases there. Thus saving money on flying up there.

    I find it funny that Barbados left the British Privy Council (not because the British law lords tried to get rid of capitol punishment murderers as they claimed) but because the law lords ruled that judgements from the Caribbean take too long in being carried out. And then after Barbados left the Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council, the Caribbean Court of Justice turns around and told Barbados the same exact thing. So I guess Barbados will have to leave the CCJ too because they don’t want to be told that? The problem Barbadian leaders had was NOT that the law lords couldn’t interpret the Constitution of Barbados and the various local statutes and other precedents, instead they disliked that the JCPC didn’t interpret cases as they wanted it to be decided whether contrary to the same rule of law.

  3. J. Payne

    The JCPC is believed to be too powerful by the local leaders. Remember when a legal challenge was brought against Trinidad and Tobago’s former Prime Minister Basdeo Pandeo on him not declaring his London bank accounts? Well Panday served some jail time over there. Now had Trinidad and Tobago had the CCJ who actually believes Panday would have gotten the same jail time? Before the CCJ was adopted for Barbados a referendum should have been held since the people of Barbados deserve to have the right to decide where their court of last resort should be, integrity legislation needed to be brought in, Freedom of Information Act needed to be brought in, and more teeth need to be given to various commissions of inquiry in Barbados. As it stands now the CCJ is still too close to the influence of the local leadership and I seriously question if the CCJ would put a current of former CARICOM head of government in jail if the evidence warranted it.

  4. J. Payne

    Correction: “Well Panday served some jail time over _that_. Now had Trinidad and Tobago signed on to the CCJ, who actually believes Panday would have gotten the same jail time?

  5. Nostradamus

    On a regular basis there are court reports in the press about the alleged rape of young children, and these cases date back 5, 6,7 8 years and they are only now coming to trial. If the so called “justice system” does not have any concern regarding justice for victim or accused in those types of cases do really think they will lose any sleep over the case mentioned by Mr. Hoyos?

  6. Roger the bard

    I am hearing of a case now where the nonsense and incompetence that is transpiring is reflective of a fourth world country, not even third world.

    And yet, Stuart still cannot appoint a Chief Justice, after refusing to extend David SImmons appointment.

    This is truly worrying and I could not in all honesty advise any international investor to purchase property in barbados or choose to reside in Barbados when there are islands like St.Barts to choose instead, particularly as the case I am hearing about sounds to me like it involves civil rights.

  7. The Spy

    You guys are so wrong, our justice system works. Our lords of the courts wear wigs and act like buffoons. The rich man cant go to Dodds , it was built for the poor man . We can’t get judgements on a timely manner but we can insist that jeans and slippers are not allowed into our court rooms. The poor man should keep away from the court if he want justice.

  8. Britty Brat

    @ The Spy
    You are sooo right!! There is no justice in ‘Bim’ for the small man. Have you ever seen a ‘person on standing’ go to jail except Juman? Never in Barbados. However, while he was there he enjoyed the best of the everything. Statistics prove that many of our young children are molested by male and female adults, and family members. Have you ever seen anyone made an example of by spending some time in jail? The Child Care Board needs to be closed beacuse it is just another ‘hot air mouth piece’. Don’t you think that Jippy Doyle should still be in jail? Of course!! But this is Bim and this is what Bim is all about…make the small man an example and let the big fish go free.

  9. J. Payne

    @The Spy. Do they?? I had to deal with a court matter at District as a witness in something, and I can safely say I didn’t see anyone wid a white wig for the balance of the day. I was under the impression Barbados must have done away with them?

  10. Commander

    Roger the bard:

    In fairness, extending the tenure of th past CJ would not make any difference. Especially since no appreciable difference was made while he was there.

    However it does not excuse the Gov’t from not having put a new one in place by now.

  11. John O Groats

    How can a failure of one tribunal indict an entire justice system?

  12. BFP

    How can a failure of one tribunal indict an entire justice system?

    Answer: When it’s just one more incident in a line of incidents that goes back decades, with people sometimes waiting ten and twenty years for justice. You’re not from around here, are you?

  13. Hoyos Foyos

    Hoyos and his brothers are from the same elite group that benefits from the sham that is our justice system. They are from the same elite group that has the politicians in its pocket and that exercises phenomenal control over what happens in Barbados. He should be the last one to talk.

  14. Pieter Pieper

    Surely the entire justice system cries out for serious change.When one has to wait 10,15,20 years,and in some cases people even die before a case is heard,when the Privy Council complained and more recently the CCJ remarked upon the length of time it has taken over the years for cases to come before them,there’s much reason to complain.But instead,we hear our “legal luminaries” blaming clients…the public…for unreasonable and,in most cases,unnecessary delay.Since lawyers charge for their “time” why would any sane person not want to have his or her matter resolved as expeditiously as possible ? But no ! Let’s blame the client/public ! There’s so much wrong with a system that is regulated by persons whose sole aim and purpose is to protect themselves (and their income in particular).The system is rotten and cries out to be overhauled !!! expeditiously as possible.But no ! The public/client

  15. J. Payne

    We had someone squat on our land (without permission). We gave the person notice to move multiple times and the person ignored those requests… We took the matter to court in the 80s. One of Barbados’
    soo called “attorneys” who represented the other side told my late grandmother who had no money to pay to move the squatter that she would have to pay because his client had no money either. It was a lesson to be learned!!! Because if anybody EVER moves on our land again and we gave them no permission, we realise it would be cheaper to put their things on the curbside, bulldoze the house, and then clean up the rubble.

    When they get home we’ll tell them we don’t give 2 wuk ups nobody send them there and they had no right there in the first place. Check the records before you build on somebody’s land. We also had the government come and tief a piece of our land (again from the 80s) and still no compensation for it…. One of these days I gon do like Al Barrack and go squat at Government Hill and see what they’ll do.

  16. J. Payne

    That government action was to construct a road…. Barbados is NOT a good place to invest in land. And if you buy some for grand children to get some one day beware you’ve got had.

  17. Pieter Pieper

    After my relative died part of her land was stolen by a lawyer/politician who obtained a ‘registrar’s title’..whatever that is ….Other people moved on to parts of the land,have now retained lawyers and are claiming squatters’ rights.We have spent thousands of dollars on five different lawyers who have done nothing to resolve our problem.How can anyone get justice when lawyers collude with each other,deliberately use every manoeuvre to drag out the resolution of a case so as to be able to increase their fees.Why should any sane rational person buy property or invest in Barbados ?

  18. Anonymous

    Thanks, BFP, for putting up my article on your site. Thanks also to all those who commented, including the one who calls himself by a good name and then adds ‘Foyos” to it. Sadly, he is incorrect.

  19. sorry I forgot to put my name on the above comment