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Hands tied

Chris Gollop

Hands tied

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by Chris Gollop HUNDREDS OF BARBADIANS seeking title to their lands but unable to do so since a new rule was introduced in October 2009 have been assured that legislation is on the way to help.
That assurance has come from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who defended staff at the Registry of the Supreme Court for not processing any new applications because of the dilemma in which they had found themselves since the courts relocated from Coleridge Street to Whitepark Road.
Besides having to adapt to the new technology, the staff were confronted with having to follow an instruction from then Chief Justice Sir David Simmons to move away from the “old set of rules” in the titling of land to a “new set of rules” without the corresponding legislation.
In legal terms, Sir David had given a “practice direction” with regard to the new way in which title suits should be processed, Stuart said.
According to the Prime Minister, some senior lawyers, as well as others versed in title suit applications, “took the position and still take the position that a practice direction had to rest on something . . . and that something is called law”.
So without the passing of corresponding legislation, Stuart said, that “practice direction” had no value, and so staff at the registration department had reason to stop processing any new title suits.
For had the staff processed any new title suits “on the basis of a practice direction in these circumstances, they would have no validity”, Stuart argued.
The Prime Minister had risen to the defence of the Registry staff during yesterday’s debate in the House of Assembly on a $3.6 million supplementary resolution for the Ministry of the Attorney?General and the Office of the Director of Public Procecutions.
Former Attorney General and now Deputy Leader of the Opposition Dale Marshall raised the issue about the failure of staff to process suits for title deeds, as well as foreclosure suits.
Marshall said that this had put many Barbadians at a “disadvantage” and argued that the department had a legal and moral obligation to process such suits. It was not good enough, he argued, for the Registry staff to take the decision not to process such suits because new legislation was not yet on the books.
But Stuart made it clear that the staff at the Registry were not being “indolent or malicious”, rather their actions were based on the circumstances in which they found themselves.
However, Stuart said he could understand the frustration of hundreds of Barbadians affected by this delay and promised Government would act with some urgency to pass new legislation.
The delays being experienced, he said, affected from the small landowner to the big developers.
To this end, he said, legislation had been drafted and had first been reviewed by the late Justice of Appeal Colin Williams and since then by a committee chaired by Justice William Chandler.
“This is an important piece of legislation,” Stuart said, adding that he was glad to report that the Attorney General [Adriel?Brathwaite] would shortly table new legislation in Parliament.