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New Chief Justice’s way

Tony Best and Bryan Walker

New Chief Justice’s way

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The man set to be Barbados’ new Chief Justice is ready to clean up “embarrassing” aspects of the judicial system.
Marston Gibson, in an exclusive with the SUNDAY SUN in New York, brought down the gavel on what he saw as the tardiness in making and writing decisions from the local Bench, and the time-consuming process of preliminary inquiries in the Magistrates’ Courts.
Gibson’s imminent appointment has stirred up political and legal divide over Government’s recently amendment to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act to remove the legal barriers to facilitate his move.
Though Government has not yet formally announced Gibson as the new Chief Justice, the Barbadian-born jurist has promised that when he comes home from New York – where he is currently the lone black judicial referee in the New York State Supreme Court in Nassau County – there will be some changes.
While not casting the blame solely on judges for the tardiness, he said they needed help to speed up the process.
One of his suggestions was setting up a system of reporting.
“We have a very competent, well-trained group of judges. I feel towards them the same way I feel about the magistrates. They are overburdened and need help. They need administrative help. I suggest that both at the magistrates’ and High Court levels we have a reporting system where judges or their clerks get to report at regular intervals, whether it is every 60 or 90 days. 
“If you have a regular reporting or administrative system for reporting, it means every 60 or 90 days a judge or magistrate has to look at the list of cases outstanding and make a decision as to how he or she would go through the list and prune out the cases that you can get rid of very quickly.”
The Rhodes Scholar agreed with Sir Roy Marshall’s recent observation that the administration of justice was embarrassing. 
Citing four cases in which the Caribbean Court of Justice scolded Barbados for its tardiness in judicial matters, Gibson took particular issue with the time accused were held on remand before adjudication.
“We have gotten too comfortable with the idea that if someone is sitting on remand for four years, is convicted of the offence, sentenced to seven years, that you deduct the years sitting on remand as time served and he would only serve three years. But here is the question: what are we going to do the day we keep someone for four years on remand and is eventually found to be innocent?”
With all the controversy surrounding the amendment to facilitate his appointment, Gibson said that at one time – last December – he thought of throwing in the towel and staying put in New York. But it was his promise to late Prime Minister David Thompson – and his successor – that kept him going.
“If I had withdrawn in December, I would not have kept my word to [Thompson] or to the current Prime Minister Freundel Stuart. As my grandfather drilled in me, don’t take on a responsibility if you can’t finish it.”
He added that while he was not surprised at the furore, he was nevertheless taken aback by the “level of ferocity”.
“I knew that the law had to be changed and that it would have to be done soon, perhaps before the by-election in St John. But a lot of what drove the debate can be attributed to politics, misperception and misinformation, a tit-for-tat situation. I understand that. But it is unfortunate.” (TB/BW)
Please see today’s SUNDAY SUN Pages 12A and 13A for the full interview with Gibson.