ONLY HUMAN: Justice too long in coming
“Concepts of justice must have hands and feet or they remain sterile abstractions. The hands and feet we need are efficient means and methods to carry out justice in every case in the shortest possible time and at the lowest possible cost.” – Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice, United States Supreme Court
The Caribbean Court of Justice has on several occasions chastised Barbados’ courts on their slow pace in delivering decisions.
The concept of justice delayed is justice denied being paramount in their argument.
The best known example of this is the case of Al Barrack who, after being awarded $34.5 million in arbitration back in 2006, as well as the court costs and the arbitrator’s costs, has to date not been paid.
That $34.5 million award for his work on the Government office complex in Warrens carries a $711.62 daily rate; the court costs of $5.8 million carries a daily rate of $1 272.80; and the arbitrator’s expenses of $350 950, a $76.92 daily rate.
At December 31, 2011, the figure Government now owes Barrack is more than $70 million.
Though Barrack painted his face white to demonstrate the injustice to him; launched a letter writing campaign to regional and international organizations calling for a blacklisting of Barbados for violation of his human rights; through legal manoeuvrings managed to have the disputed office building at Warrens put up for sale as well as land in St Philip ceded to him to satisfy payment; and even got a promise from Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler that he would be paid,but he is still waiting.
Another case where justice seems long in coming is that involving Kent Construction Ltd.
Chairman of that company, Trevor Kent, is crying out for justice after his business was granted a $752 557.76 judgement together with interest in a civil case on July 10, 2008, but has been unable to collect one cent.
A letter dated April 18 last year, written by Kent’s attorneys Daher & Associates, and sent to Chief Marshal Adrian Lovell demonstrates the frustration he is feeling.
The letter stated that since “discussions on April 4, 2011, we were informed that the levy against [the plaintiff’s] assets had been executed and that your offices would be issuing a report to us shortly as to the item (s) seized and the date set for the sale of same.
“To date we have not received the said report and are now informed that your office’s file on this matter is still to be located and until such time we cannot be provided with confirmation of the said item(s) seized or the date set for the sale.
“You will appreciate this is totally unsatisfactory. Our client has experienced delay after delay, been called on to refile levy documents and now it is still unable to have any redress,” it continued.
As Kent was at his wits end with the seeming non-action from the Court Process Office to execute the judgement and levy on the plaintiff, in exasperation, he hired a private investigator to track down the plaintiff to help the marshals locate the individual.
Yesterday, he said that though the marshals did carry out that levy last year, he had received nothing from this action as a bank had a lien on the plaintiff’s most noteworthy possession.
But this is just part of the story. There is also a criminal case against the same individual which started back in 2008 that is yet to proceed. Since that first hearing, Kent has attended court 18 times.
So fed up is Kent and his wife and fellow director, Hazel-Ann, that they continue to write letters complaining about the delays.
Last year, they wrote then Acting Chief Justice Sherman Moore and Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin outlining their concerns.
What I find intriguing about both of these cases is the impact they can have on the public’s confidence in our judicial system. For if people don’t feel that they will get justice if ever they have been wronged, then the rule of law in our society would be undermined.
And this not only relates to our society, but can have a tremendous impact on our economy as well.
In this age of globalization, investors do business on the basis of confidence in the agreements made, with the understanding that if there should be a dispute, it can be resolved efficiently and fairly.
If there are doubts this can be achieved, then these individuals would be wary of that particular jurisdiction.
The rule of law in any society is therefore a stabilizing force that serves to assure average citizens of their rights, and ensures accountability and fair play by all.
A Government that advocates that “Barbados is more than an economy, it’s a society” should therefore go all out to ensure legal matters like these are not perpetuated lest people lose faith in the judicial process.