Sir David’s response
My attention has been drawn to a story appearing on the Back Page of the issue of THE NATION of February 16, 2011, headed Hands Tied and written by Chris Gollop.
The story contains three inaccuracies.
First, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is reported to have said that when I was Chief Justice of Barbados, I issued a practice direction dealing with the procedure for titling land which has no title.
The report suggests that the alleged practice direction is the cause of a backlog of title suits in the Registration Office.
I categorically deny that I ever issued any such practice direction. No such practice direction exists. None has ever been Gazetted.
Secondly, the story attributes to the Prime Minister a comment or opinion that he “takes the position that a practice direction had to rest on something . . . and that something is called law”.
The implication is that I acted whimsically or without legal authority – which, of course, I did not since I never issued any practice direction.
A practice direction does indeed “rest on something called law”. It is not some illusory concoction of a Chief Justice. Let me explain.
Part 4 of the Supreme Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, so far as material to this matter, provides as follows:
“4.1 practice directions may only be issued by the Chief Justice after consultation with the judges. 4.2(1) A practice direction may be issued in any case where provision for such a direction is made
by these rules. (2) Where there is no express provision in these Rules for such a direction, the Chief Justice may give directions as to the practice and procedure to be followed in the Supreme Court. 4.3 Practice directions must be (a) published in the Official Gazette; and (b) displayed and made available for sale at the Registry.”
The Supreme Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2008, including Part 4, (the new Rules) were made by the Rules Committee under powers conferred on it by Section 82 of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, Cap.117A. Thus, practice directions do have legal validity by virtue of the authority of the Rules Committee whose authority is itself derived from Section 82 of the parent statute.
The third inaccuracy in the story occurs in its penultimate paragraph. Prime Minister Stuart is reported to have said that legislation had been drafted and had first been reviewed by the late Justice of Appeal, Colin Williams.
The facts are that as long ago as 2004, the Judicial Council of Barbados established a sub-committee of judges and attorneys-at-law, under the chairmanship of Justice Williams, to devise a new procedure for providing good title to land without a title. See Page 4 of the Report Of The Judicial Council 2004.
The sub-committee duly prepared a draft bill with specimen forms and these were forwarded by the Judicial Council to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel. See Page 15 of the Report Of The Judicial Council 2006.
On December 16, 2009, I received a copy of a draft bill from the Chief Parliamentary Counsel with a request that I circulate it to the judges for their comments. I did so on December 23, 2009. I proceeded on pre-retirement leave on January 20, 2010, but I believe that a committee under the chairmanship of Justice Chandler refined the draft bill together with the Chief Parliamentary Counsel.
It is a pity that Colin Williams died without seeing the final version of the new legislation of which his sub-committee and the Judicial Council were the promoters.
Finally, I am bound to say that I had hoped that I would never have had to defend my tenure as Chief Justice in the Press. However, I am driven to set the historical record straight conscious that where an inaccurate statement gains a head-start on the truth, the latter has to make a massive effort to catch up.