Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart (FILE)
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart says Barbados’ judicial system has been “unnecessarily slandered” by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
The island’s final appellate court, which is based in Trinidad, has on three occasions bashed Barbados for the time it takes to hear and conclude cases, at one point saying that the long delays were deplorable.
Yesterday for the first time, Stuart publicly addressed the matter in the House of Assembly, charging that such judicial delays were not peculiar to Barbados but were an issue throughout the Caribbean. However, he said while this was the case, the Privy Council, which was the appellate court for all the other Caribbean jurisdictions, handled the issue of delays in a more diplomatic fashion.
He told Parliament: “I do not get too overwhelmed with what the CCJ says. We do not rejoice that there are delays in the system – there are delays and we have to deal with them – but I sometimes think that Barbados is being unnecessarily slandered by some of the reports I see.”
He reminded that only four CARICOM countries – Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica – had signed onto the CCJ while all the others still went to the Privy Council, based in England.
“When you read decisions coming out of the Privy Council, evidence of horrible delays are uncovered in CARICOM countries that have not signed onto the CCJ. [It] handles that issue of delays much less salaciously than it seems to be the case of how it is handled in the Caribbean.
“These things are dealt with in one sentence, two at most, without any administering of rebuke or any holding up to ridicule . . . .”
Stuart, a Queen’s Counsel, explained that delays were a “serious problem” for all countries. “But it is not going to function more efficiently if whenever there is evidence that there was delay, the country is held up to ridicule and the impression is given that we are not working and that is not right!” he charged.
The Prime Minister said while he was speaking on the matter for the first time in Parliament, “I have made my concerns known elsewhere.
“I am not here saying that the issue is one in respect of which we can rest on our laurels. I am just saying it is a regional problem and those countries that have signed onto the CCJ come under the CCJ spotlight. Those that have not signed onto the CCJ come under the spotlight of the Privy Council, which handles them fundamentally different than how they are handled in the region.”
In terms of the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which was being debated yesterday, Stuart said Government was trying to deal with the issue of delays in a holistic way.
“Delays in a criminal justice system are par for the course,” he said. “The Government is trying to do its best to deal with this problem. It is a complex problem and it is not limited to what judges do or do not do.
‘‘There are many other stakeholders in the system that contribute to the delays.
‘‘The challenge is to get the machinery so well oiled that all those stakeholders can function synergistically enough as to make delays unlikely.
“We are looking at the entire system and trying to come up with a formula that would allow us to deal with the delays,” he added. (MB)