The unnamed lawyer in our original story has been named as Alair Shepherd, Queen’s Counsel. Mr. Shepherd has apologized to High Court Justice Dr Sonia Richards, but the full story in the Nation tells the all-too-familiar tale of a broken court system where the focus is on process, not on results or justice.
Mr. Shepherd should not have done what he did, but in a court system where civil cases often take 15 or 20 years to reach trial we can expect to see the rivets starting to pop as the pressure builds on the boiler call the Barbados Courts. (By the way, why is Chief Justice Gibson in South Africa? Shouldn’t he be staying at home and trying to clean up this mess?)
Here’s the article from the Nation. Please read it at their website here, but unfortunately we have to print it all here because if we don’t, they will change the story as it suits the changing politics.
Queen’s Counsel Alair Shepherd – the man at the centre of the outburst involving High Court Justice Dr Sonia Richards last week – has confirmed that he apologized to her, but said the incident was a result of his frustration over the administration of justice.
In an interview with the DAILY NATION yesterday, Shepherd said his behaviour before the judge should not detract from the real issue, which was the continuing delay of an extremely important case touching on the ability of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) to discharge its duties.
Last Monday, Shepherd had an outburst before the judge. He then backed Justice Richards, raised his robe and bent over.
The incident, which sent shock waves through the legal fraternity, occurred in the corridor outside the judge’s chambers where she had convened a meeting with attorneys at law involved in the case concerning 13 police officers who are challenging last year’s promotions by the Police Service Commission.
“Unfortunately, what happened before Her Ladyship has diverted from the seriousness of what is happening in this case,” Shepherd said. “It is a shame that the Press has focused on my conduct as opposed to what is happening in the case. I don’t understand the public interest in it.”
The case first went to court as an urgent matter in August last year and was heard by Justice Randall Worrell on two occasions before it was assigned to Justice Elneth Kentish. She granted an injunction halting the promotions pending the outcome of the case.
During the hearing, Shepherd, who is representing one of the litigants, raised a constitutional point which was supposed to be heard before Justice Kentish on Monday. In fact, the case was listed before her, but on that day, she informed the attorneys that the case was now to be heard by Justice Richards. However, Justice Richards recused herself from the case.
“I don’t want to comment on my behaviour other than to say what has been reported in the Press in some respects does not tell the whole story in relation to the background information,” Shepherd said yesterday, pointing out that the case had now been adjourned without a date set or judge assigned.
“What is to happen to me in relation to this should not have an impact on the progress on the case.”
Shepherd maintained that the case, involving as it did the promotion of officers in the RBPF, impacted on the ability of the force to discharge its duties and ought to have been heard as opposed to being shuffled from judge to judge without timely notice to counsel.
He also lashed out at the Bar Association saying it had failed to be outraged by the fact that the delay in decisions was breaching litigants’ constitutional rights.
“The judiciary is there to protect the constitutional rights of citizens of Barbados.”
The Queen’s Counsel, who is well known for fighting death penalty cases, also referred to the Caribbean Court of Justice’s remarks last year concerning the delay of cases in Barbados.
“The CCJ commented on those delays when it said those delays were surprising in light of the fact that Barbados’ Constitution guarantees trial within a reasonable time. There must be a concerted, urgent effort to deal with this.
“I tendered my apology and, in that regard, that should be the end of the matter. However, if they choose to pursue it in any way, I will defend my position
in light of the manner in which cases are progressing through the system and I would ask any tribunal to take into account the massive delays and the breaches of litigants’ constitutional rights. Those things have to be taken into account in everything that I did.”
When contacted yesterday, Justice Richards said: “I will not be making a comment at all.”
Asked why she had recused herself from the case, she said: “I would suggest that you speak to the Chief Justice.”
However, Chief Justice Marston Gibson left the island last week for South Africa and will not be returning until next week.
Some attorneys have called for Shepherd to be stripped of his silk, while others said while they do not agree with his behaviour, they understood the frustration with the judicial system and were willing to support him in that regard.