Arch Cot Justice will be delayed another 20 years

Barbados Free Press has yet to write about the Coroner’s verdict in the Arch Cot cave-in deaths because we are waiting to read the entire verdict as is being published in installments in The Barbados Advocate.

In this day and age it is inexcusable that the Coroner herself hasn’t published her complete verdict online, but that’s Buhbadus and doan say it’s not so!

From the start BFP covered the deaths of the Codrington family extensively and it is probably not an exaggeration to say that Barbados would still be waiting for an inquest without BFP, the Codrington family and the other voices who steadily demanded an inquest until the government finally gave in.

Even after the inquest belatedly started, the coroner had to be dragged kicking and screaming into hearing evidence from Professor Hans Machel, a specialist in earth and atmospheric science at the University of Alberta in Canada, who conducted an independent study of the cave after the apartment collapsed.

Although BFP will wait to read the full verdict before commenting in detail, some of what we’ve read in the papers shows that the Barbados news media still has a great reluctance to name names. The Barbados elites are well-protected by the local press. Of course, we at BFP have no reluctance to name the names.

Justice in Barbados: A decades-long process that often never ends

The Codrington family lawyer, David Comissiong, made statements shortly after the verdict that the family would be pursuing legal action in the Barbados courts…

“Based on all of the evidence that was revealed over the past year of this inquest, we feel that we need to take this matter further. We think that these deaths could have been avoided. We think that there are four possible cases of negligence. So we would be exploring all four of those possible cases,”

David Comissiong to the Barbados Advocate

22 Years and counting down

We wonder if the remaining family members really know what they are in for. Barbados is a country where a simple condominium dispute or a pedestrian accident can remain before the courts for more than twenty years with no resolution. Ours is a country where court files and government records appear and reappear for the convenience of the elites and to deny evidence to ordinary folks.

Barbados has a system where there are no court reporters in the civil courts. How does anyone remember or know what really happened in the course of a few hours in court with no records being kept? You may well ask that question… not that you’ll receive a satisfactory answer.

Just last week our Barbados Court of Appeal issued a decision in the 1993 road accident case of Edward Roach. That’s almost 19 years after Mr. Roach was injured, and he still hasn’t been paid a dollar.

What happened at Arch Cot is far more complex than a road accident – by many orders of magnitude. Unfortunately the Barbados Courts will be unable to deliver justice to the Codringtons in under two decades.

Our guess of the time it will take the Barbados courts to reach a decision in the Arch Cot Disaster case: 22 years at minimum.

Here is a recent example of Bajan justice, courtesy of Barbados Today

Still liable despite different decision

Barbados’ Court of Appeal has re-allocated the liability of a substantial monetary award made to a pedestrian injured in a road accident more than 18 years ago. But in the historic decision, made late last month by the highest court in the land, those found responsible will still jointly have to pay the affected individual close to a quarter of a million dollars in damages.

The court, in reaching its judgment, was also forced to go the uncommon route of amending a decision of a trial judge in such matters.

On November 23, 1993 Edward Roach was struck in a collision involving vehicles driven by Nigel Ward, who was driving along Brighton Main Road in the direction of Black Rock Main Road, St. Michael, and Milton Lowe, operator of the other automobile, which was traveling along Farm Road leading onto Brighton Main Road.

The trial judge found that both drivers were liable and apportioned 70 per cent liability to Ward and 30 to Lowe. That, however, has now been changed to 40 per cent to Ward and 60 per cent to Lowe, after Ward appealed the decision.

Court documents outlining the decision noted that in his several grounds of appeal, Ward, represented by attorneys Larry Smith and Ajamu Boardi, argued that the trial judge erred in law and/or in fact that he was speeding and thereby was responsible for the accident and that Lowe “in exiting from the minor road was solely responsible for the accident”. Lowe in turn then filed a respondent’s notice through his lawyer Bryan Weekes, submitting that “the trial judge erred in not finding Ward 100 per cent liable as there is no evidence of liability on Lowe’s part”.

The Court of Appeal panel in reaching its decision referred to several previous cases, including one in which immediate past Chief Justice Sir David Simmons gave guidance on how an appellate court should treat findings of a trial judge on questions of fact and damages.

“We are aware of any case in which the percentage of blame attributed to the main road drive, in the absence of negligently overtaking other traffic on the main road, was in excess of that attributed to the minor road driver in circumstances such as those in the instant case,” the Court of Appeal judges stated.

“To attribute the greater blame to the driver on the main road, as the judge did, would be to ignore the rules of the road and the authorities and cases that deal with the respective liability of drivers at junctions.¬†

“Even if the minor road driver was stationary on the major road he was stationary there not in the context of having parked there but in the context of having emerged from the minor road without first ascertaining or ensuring that it was safe so to do and that there was adequate clearance from oncoming traffic. It follows that we do not agree with the judge’s apportionment of blame,” the panel added.

The Court of Appeal found that the trial judge “erred in principle by failing to draw the correct inferences from the primary facts and to adequately take into account the legal obligations of the driver emerging from a minor road onto a main road”.

“The apportionment which the judge made was based on an error of law which it is the duty of this court to correct. The apportionment should be in keeping with authority; the main driver, even if speeding and driving carelessly, is generally held about one quarter or one third to blame. The minor driver is entitled to come onto the main road only when he can safely clear traffic on that road; he is certainly not entitled to come out onto almost half of the main road and stop there,” it stated.

While Ward and Lowe have had their monetary responsibilities changed, they will still have to pay Roach more than $182,232 plus interest from August 8, 2003.


Filed under Barbados, Building Collapse, Disaster

19 responses to “Arch Cot Justice will be delayed another 20 years

  1. robert ross

    ‘Coroner hasn’t published….” Sorry: but since when has there been any duty in a judicial officer to publish? And sorry again: I find this piece replete with rather arrogant surmise and conjecture and what I seem to detect as a commonplace here – the unsubstantiated reference to the “Bajan elite”. Yes of course the legal process is subject to horrendous delays and that is properly a target for sniping. But this goes too far because it is grounded on next to nothing. The unduly long reference to the case appealed is (broadly) an irrelevance save for the length of time it took to sort it all out. Disappointed with this one.

  2. Angela Ifill

    I thought I was the only one that realize that Barbados Free press does write a lot of crap when it ready.

  3. Ruesay

    Good article BFP. It took Barbados Free Press over three years to shame the government into holding an inquest. Take a bow, Marcus and BFPers because without you it would not have happened.

    The Coroner was dragged kicking and screaming as was the government. The Barbados Advocate and the Nation refused to print Prof. Machel’s expose until BFP did first. The coroner didn’t want Machel and Goddard testifying and she didn’t invite them until she was pressured into it by the blogs. Did the Coroner address the threats and intimidation of witnesses as reported by Machel and others?

    I want to read the coroner’s verdict to see if she dealt with the mysterious removal of a “no building” clause on the land title. Were those land records ever found? We know they exist because of references to them but did they conveniently disappear from the land records office?

    Robert Ross commenting above comes across like a privileged one. He never considers that the reason society has open coroner’s inquests is for transparency to the general public. He’s probably of the view that Hansard shouldn’t be published either: if the public want to hear what is going on in Parliament they should come, otherwise it is none of the public’s business. That’s was Robert Ross believes.

    Ifill same same attacks the messenger but cannot address BFP’s message and say it is not true becuase everything BFP says in this article is true. Anybody knows that. Any Bajan anyways.

    BFP is 100% correct about the time it will take the Codringtons to see justice. It will be 20 years or more. The “interested” and involved people who want this to go away include the Mottley family, the Williams Brothers and others with money and power. The government wants it to go away because everything about it shows that we are a third world backwater with no building laws and poorly-equipped and substandard emergency services.

    The Caribbean Court of Justice has heavily criticized the regular, horrendous and normal delays in the Barbados courts. Cases regularly take 10, 15, 20 years and it would be a joke if people weren’t dying as they wait for justice. There are no court reporters in civil cases! It’s always like kindergarten with a bunch of five year olds fighting about what was said because there is no official record kept! Unbelievable in Barbados in the year 2012!!!

    Any Bajan knows there are two sets of laws in Barbados: one for the rich or connected and one for everybody else. That’s a given.

    Thank you BFP for telling it like it is.

  4. Well said, Ruesay. But you know as soon as there is evidence brought forward by someone from the outside, Bajans in certain positions feel slighted and take on the it is we who will do it when we good and ready.

  5. robert ross

    Ruesay….like the blog you ascribe to me views you know nothing about. What I said was that there was no duty on a judicial officer to publish what he/she said on the internet and that I thought the way the blog was expressed was full of conjecture and much was irrelevant. If that makes me a “privileged” one, don’t worry I’ll live with it.

  6. Wily Coyote

    Like BU I have followed this situation closely, hopefully the corner after much kicking and screaming did her job professionally. My skepticism however is always present as Barbados has always shown a lack of professionalism in it’s public employees. I would hope that action does not take 20 years, I OLD and will likely die before a result. Then again Barbados itself maybe HISTORY in 20 years, food for thought.

  7. vexx as *****!!!!

    What bothers me is the refusal, continued, of the newspapers and local media to call names even when legally entitled to do so, especially when certain prominent people are involved.
    It is clear that Dr. Jerry Emptage’s actions played a significant role in the eventual collapse, while the engineers and others were also very culpable.
    It also bothers me that even though the inquest stated that man ultimately caused the deaths of the family, even Comisong seemed to be leaning towards monetary compensation from the perpetrators, rather than custodial sentences!!
    This MUST be a grave miscarriage of justice if Emptage and some others are not locked up for at least some time, as based on reports in the paper, their arrogance and greed is when led to to the eventual collapse and deaths.
    Money, which as correctly stated no one will smell far less spend for at least a decade, SHOULD NOT suffice!!
    Lock some of these fools up!

  8. rumboy

    Free Press did a good job covering the Arch Cot cave-in and controversy. BFP you should publish a list of all your posts so everything is at one place.

    There is all the chance in the world that 20 years is a good estimate for how long it will take to get through Barbados courts. That is sad and too true. Does anyone believe an Arch Cot court case could be done in five years? Ten years? Neva happen! 20 years at best in Barbados courts and lies and fights all the way. The family has no money and the peoples on the other side have lots.

  9. Sunshine Sunny Shine

    There is nothing wrong with your article. Justice is on the side, for now, of the Codrington family and the black and white elites of this little island must understand that the only person who should be above the law is God himself. A crime was committed by all those who were involved in the Arch cot land development deal. Its time that the laws of Barbados be practice and executed on the evidence presented and not on the name or title of the individual who is to be tried before a court of laws. Until that happens BFP or any other person has a right to expose the corruption and blatant hypocrisy of the judicial system and the persons who play an active role in it. Full disclosure must be presented on this case for public scrutiny. Barbadians are not as foolish as they were perceive years ago (but certainly have become ”gold miners and quite corrupt). They may be docile and passive but certainly not as foolish.

  10. Bob

    Whatever happened to the Coroner’s verdict in the case of aero-plane that crashed landed in the sea that the Springer fellow was piloting? The fellow was hailed as being heroic, when he left the sinking plane and passengers to swim for help. Similarly, the case with the doctors in the cosmetic surgery of the young women who died (a case very similar to Michael Jackson’s). These are things the populace is entitled to know.

  11. robert ross

    Rumboy…thankyou. My perception of the blog is based on what I read here. As such, it does not convince me. I remember that with the ‘evil DPP landlord’ blog there were a series of references and so it was easy enough to get the background..
    On ‘elites’:- I am not sure how exactly you define that but I suppose it means people with power, money, influence. But it might also mean people with education, knowledge, insight. In any event, ‘elitists’ are people who do not use what they have for the common good but guard what they have, from fear or

    whatever, for themselves alone. And they group with others of like mind. In this
    sense, every man is capable of becoming an elitist. You give a poor man a job – say as security guard- and over-night he becomes a bully because he is now ‘somebody’. The nice girl at the checkout becomes ‘miss Big-stuff’…and so on. And it doesn’t matter where you look – in the law, in education and even the Church – the syndrome is the same; and I suppose it’s the same everywhere. Yes – ‘it aint what you know etc etc”.People who attack elitists are so often people who simply haven’t got what elitists have yet want what they have. So you end up with jealousies and often a lot of meaningless rant – sounding off. And all of this is exacerbated in Barbados by the old colonial mindsets, black and white, slave and free, master and servant. Some educated people fuel all this in the name of ‘nationalism’ and to use a term from a post here, “Mother Africa”. So often I hear expressions like ‘Oh but we are a young nation’ as if that explains everthing, as if it justifies everything. But it doesn’t at all. For me, it is to live in the past

  12. robert ross

    sorry…this box seems to jump about and I dunno where I am half the time.

    to be bedevilled by ghosts, consumed by historical nightmares. As I say, given the reality of ‘elites’ what I look for is those who use what they have for the common good, not as an ego trip; people of understanding and vision, people who build and create, people who look to the future and seek to fashion what we could be not what we are, scything through all that is false on the way, all the ignorance and superstition and hypocrasy. And in that, yes –

    where there is corruption, expose it; where there is injustice, right it; where there is mismanagement, ridicule it; where there is ignorance, educate it; where there is hatred, heal it; where there is division, oil it.

  13. Sunshine Sunny Shine

    Robert Ross

    Very little in the island of Barbados gets expose, particularly amongst ‘the haves.’ Your explanation of elitism made for some interesting points all aceept when sought to determine that elitism is base on behaviorism as oppose to the power of money and status to ‘purchase obvious persuasions.’ Please explain why you feel the need to define elitism. For me there is nothing wrong with people who have money and prestige as long as it is obtain by legitimate means. However, what everyone knows to be the standard operational procedure in Barbados is that there is a system of law that continues to protect these people no matter what they do. It is a system that is steep in colonialism (as you rightfully alluded in a different context) that perpetuates colourism in the racial divide that have many blacks of colour thinking that they are white.

    In Barbados, you are not to challenge the system or the managers that are employed by the system, lest you be severely victimized for doing so. Barbados may have very bright people but the people seem not to be bright enough to embrace collectivity and cohesion against back drop of individualism and division. We seem to think that ‘talk name’ and malicious endeavour are the hall marks of success, hence our society’s running rampant with hearsay and gossip.

    All your other points are well taken.

  14. robert ross

    Sunshine….yes, your penultimate sentence is “not half’ true and I have met it in situations and institutions where one would never expect to meet it – and to the point where it becomes evil. Please understand, I am not against individualism – far from it. I regard Jesus as the supreme individualist. Oh yes: another point of yours. In the Yorubaland of Nigeria they say there are three kinds of people – black man, white man and “black man like white man”! I reflected on the concept of ‘elitism’ in part to orchestrate further reflections and partly because I find the constant reference to it reduces it to the meaningless and otiose.It is a ghost of times past. Why? See my final paragraph

  15. Mac

    The coroner says it was an accident. Let’s see shall we.
    Land that couldn’t be built on due to caves gets changed that land CAN be built on.
    Land is sold for huge profit.
    Ignoring local knowledge of caves, land is built on and apartment block built.
    People move in.
    Ignoring local knowledge of caves, new building starts.
    Ignoring holes cracks and vibration, building continues.
    Apartment block falls into the cave killing five people.

    People are responsible, guilty and should be charged for their negligence.

  16. rastaman

    @Mac : Totally agree with you. If you are in a car” ACCIDENT” and caused the death of another person you can still be charged with manslaughter. This is just a cover up ,don’t you see the names called who are involved?

  17. 22

    @Mac :It is obvious this matter will not be resolved until sometime in the next century (by which time we’ll all be long dead and gone).The coroner’s report will whitewash the incident.There continues to be no real change in the administration of justice.The newly appointed chief justice will continue in the same vein as his predecessors so that there will be no real justice meted out.There will be no change in the system…one set of laws for the “haves” and another for the “have-nots”.Even though we know those who are responsible for this tragedy which could have been prevented,no one will be held to account.Justice will continue to be delayed and denied as it will be in many other cases until perhaps we have our own “Arab Spring”.But then again,we are a very docile and selfish people who don’t give a damn about the problems of our fellowman/woman.

  18. Mac

    Although the coroner left it open for compensation which David Commisiong is on the case with, how long will it take and how old will the little girl (& sole survivor of the Codrington family) be before she sees any money or real justice?????

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