LEGAL LUMINARY Sir Roy Marshall says the administration of justice in Barbados has deteriorated to the stage where it has become an embarrassment.
Sir Roy told the WEEKEND NATION that in a well regulated and run country, prisoners should not be on remand for periods that were sometimes in excess of what their sentences might have been.
“One of my constant preoccupations is the state of the administration of justice in Barbados, and for that matter, much of the Caribbean. To be brutally frank, I think our present system has deteriorated to a point that is embarrassing,” he said.
Sir Roy stated that keeping people on remand for inordinately long periods appeared to be standard practice and begged the question whether there were sufficient magistrates and judges.
“Is the machinery for ensuring speedy trials adequate? Are the time frames for transacting a citizen’s legal business acceptable, and are the processes for charging fees and handling clients’ monies transparent and properly monitored?” he asked.
Sir Roy, a former vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies, said none of these burning issues was seemingly being pursued with any sense of urgency. As a result, he added, there was severe public discontent and growing mistrust that threatened the reputation of the legal profession as a whole.
Call for changes
The former chairman of the National Commission on Law and Order called for changes in how members of the legal profession were policed.
“In Barbados the concept of self-regulation is an illusion, because comprehensive machinery for that regulation can hardly be said to exist. Our current arrangement, the Disciplinary Committee of the Barbados Bar Association, is generally reluctant to act against its own, except in the most egregious of cases.
Sir Roy said that in Barbados the British tradition that the learned professions could be trusted to police themselves was accepted. But he added that in Britain there was strong and effective legislation to regulate the conduct of legal practitioners, and a very powerful, well funded, and serious enforcement body – the Law Society – which ensured that the client was protected.
He said the level of the quality of the judiciary was fundamental to the proper running of the country, adding it was a sad fact that very few of Barbados’ leading lawyers had the ambition to join the Bench.
He said it was imperative that Barbados continued to search for its brightest and best, wherever they might be located.