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OFF CENTRE – Who will guard the guards?

Sherwyn Walters

OFF CENTRE – Who will guard the guards?

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I scared.
’Cause although some things make you almost pull out your hair (yours, not mine – for obvious reasons), you just can’t jump up and go at them just so.
I scared because I am dealing with a matter that has to do with the court.
And you know you don’t just write or say things about the court.  You can’t call a judge or a magistrate a idiot.
So, Mr Lawyer, go through this with a fine-tooth comb. Even if you don’t like how I write, check twice what I write.
Priests, professors, even prime ministers with parliamentary privilege hesitate to say anything negative about the courts.
They could make a princess – Princess Anne, if yuh please – pay £400 for speeding. A judge did that in England.
Nothing wrong wid dat.  But it just goes to show you the power of the court.
Why you think that a change comes over you when you step into a courtroom? It is not the fact that, like a church – considered a sacred place – you usually have to sit on benches. It is not that there is a policeman who looks like he would throw you out on your head if you barely sneeze.
No. It is “Your Honour” or “Your Worship”.
Why I en get to the point yet?
I scared – I already tell you so.
I am old enough to remember when the court orderly would make people tuck their shirt-jacs/bush jackets into their trousers – and they couldn’t quarrel on that hallowed ground.
I remember a time many years ago when I nearly pee myself when I was called to give evidence in the High Court. They almost had to give me CPR for nervousness nearly unto death.
So I building myself up to get to the point. 
’Cause I scared.
(And right now I am thinking – among other pun-infested thoughts – that I might be courting disaster, doing something that might be injurious to my health, that if a judge witnesses this he might adjourn this column or impose more than fine change or even a long sentence. But I just remembered that Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, a judge in the United States in the early 20th century, would probably quote to me the words of his father (same name Sr): “A pun does not commonly justify a blow in return. But if a blow were given for such cause and death ensued, the jury might, if the [pun] were of an aggravated character, return a verdict of justifiable homicide.”)
See? Another man of the court, another reason to be fearful.
Still, a Trini reader saying, “When dis man go get to de point, eh? Oh gawwwwd!”
Well, here goes. But remember, I scared.
Not for the first time, a court decision has left me livid. I don’t know if I could say I livid at a judge or a magistrate, so I put it that I livid at a decision.
It left me asking the question: who will guard the guards?
I picked up the WEEKEND NATION of July 29 and read that the head of the Inland Revenue Department, Frank Forde, was upset because a magistrate had given a “slap on the wrist” (Forde’s words) to some lawyers, doctors, and business people who had been hauled before the court for not paying taxes.
Non-payment of taxes by self-employed people has been a plague of downright poor citizenship that Barbados has endured for a long time, creating an abyss of lost revenue.
And it is a deeply embittering affront to the many workers whose national due is extracted before they even see the rest of their pay and to those other self-employed people who assiduously set aside money or borrow when the time comes around (hopefully none are like those Sparrow sang about in You Can’t Get Away From The Tax: “In New York and Caracas/you ha’ to t’ief sometimes to pay tax”) to meet this most weighty civic obligation.
And yet the magistrate let the scofflaws go just so – reprimanded and discharged them after they had pleaded guilty.
So, there. I dealt with it. And I still scared. But will somebody please tell me why I can’t call a judge or a magistrate an idiot?
There may be good reasons.
Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor. Email [email protected]