EVERYDAY LAW: Efficient delivery of justice
In this column, I have avoided tackling some of the contentious issues relating to the delivery of justice mainly because it is my opinion that it is better for these issues to be resolved collaboratively between the Bench and the Bar outside of the public domain.
However, I believe we can agree that the current state of the administration and delivery of justice is unsatisfactory. As is often the case, it is easier to recognize a problem than to solve it.
Without going into the specifics, I believe that all must now recognize that changes must be made.
I give one example of how changes can lead to improvements in the delivery of legal services.
For many years in Barbados, there was a system of perfecting title to land through a process known as a foreclosure suit.
This process was applied to cases where there were no title deeds as well as those where there were title deeds but they had been lost, damaged or destroyed. In the latter case, these deeds would have been recorded in the registration office or as it is now called, the land registry.
Even though you could get certified copies of these deeds, generally, it was the case that you had to institute foreclosure proceedings which involved a legal fiction in which a debt was created against the property and an order was given by the High Court for the sale of the same which then allowed the claimant to purchase the property and then obtain a conveyance which would be executed by the Registrar of the Supreme Court in favour of the purchaser.
While this procedure worked to perfect many titles, it was costly, and it took a considerable time to complete and in some cases it resulted in the wrong person being vested with the property.
Part of the legal fiction required that the “price” at which the property was sold had to be paid to the registrar. This was done in the form of a cheque from the attorney-at-law for the purchaser who had to await a cheque for a similar amount from the registrar.
The Land (Title Proceedings) Act, 2011 was enacted to initiate a more transparent method of conferring title and to eliminate the fictitious elements of the process.
Additionally, the act extended the provisions of the Land (Title Deeds Restoration) Act Cap. 229C to situations where title deeds were lost or misplaced. This change was a very significant one.
These two pieces of legislation have effected significant improvements with respect to the perfecting of title by permitting the restoration of title deeds where they were destroyed or have been lost or missing.
The Land (Title Deeds Restoration) Act Cap. 229C came into force on April 1, 1995 and the Land (Title Proceedings) Act 2011-7 came into force on March 10, 2011.
The Land Title Deeds Restoration Act deals with deeds destroyed by disaster such as fire, hurricane and flood.
The Land (Title Proceedings) Act 2011-7 deals with deeds that have been lost, misplaced or stolen. That act is even more significant than the first because a large number of defective titles result from deeds which have been lost or misplaced.
The procedure for restoration of deeds is relatively straightforward.
An application must be filed with the Registrar of Titles, which must be supported by affidavit or other evidence explaining how the deeds were destroyed or lost or misplaced.
Notices of the application must then be given by advertisement in one of the daily newspapers giving people a minimum time set by the Registrar of Titles to respond if they have evidence that the deeds are not damaged, destroyed, lost, misplaced or stolen.
Once the registrar is satisfied that the substantive and procedural requirements of the law have been met he is empowered to restore the deeds.
I hope that the success of those two pieces of legislation will convince us that other things can be changed for the better as well.