EDITORIAL – Focus on justice
The official opening of the Supreme Court Complex on Whitepark Road has now been done by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who, as Attorney General in the David Thompson administration, had a hand in bringing the project to completion and to the moving in and settling process.
As befits such an occasion, Governor General Sir Clifford Husbands was in attendance, as were the Cabinet and current and former judicial officers, of both the Supreme Court and the Magistracy.
There must not be any diminution of the public significance of the new building. The opening of the new Supreme Court Complex ought to be a reminder of the importance of justice as an ideal for which any country must aim. This new complex therefore has or ought to have solid meaning for all Barbadians.
Since Independence, in more ways than one, we have Barbadianized our institutions by training our people to manage and run them; but we have not done so at the expense of time-honoured principles that conduce to the ethical delivery of justice.
Yet we cannot rest on our laurels, and it is in this context that we concur in the reminders, by both the Prime Minister and the Acting Chief Justice that the essential difference can be made not so much by the building, but by those who work therein.
As the Prime Minister said: “The average man or woman would think that the justification for the new building could be seen in the improvement in the administration and dispensation of justice.”
The Acting Chief Justice also saw the human aspect when he told the audience that “a fine building is no more than a place from which justice is administered and that we must never forget that we are dealing with human beings, and attend to the people’s needs with humanity dignity and dispatch”.
While it is true that service to the members of the public must be the foundational focus of the court system, more personnel resources and other human resource changes may be required to enhance that delivery.
The role and knowledge of ancillary staff in a specialized environment such as the court system is an integral part of the efficiency of the system.
The courts would grind to a standstill without them and the loss of experienced staff to promotional opportunities elsewhere in the general public service is not unknown; and when it happens it can militate against the dispatch with which service may be delivered.
It would also be a grave mistake to think that all the problems within the justice system are to be laid at the feet of those administering the courts. The problem of prisoners spending five or six years on remand consists in a complex of circumstances outside the control of the courts themselves; and a greater allocation of scarce financial resources to the police, and to the magistracy may be necessary to a speedier process. However, we are pleased that these matters are not lost on those who occupy the corridors of power.
We note that the court has now been officially opened without any word on the appointment of a new Chief Justice. This is a matter for considerable regret, especially after changes to the relevant legislation were made way back in March.
Whispered conversations on the cocktail circuit cannot satisfy any delay in the need that a suitable candidate be identified and appointed. Yet, it is to their great credit that the Acting Chief Justice and his fellow judiciary have been able to competently discharge their duties while settling in amidst a number of inevitable teething problems.
At the same time, we urge that the appointment of a Chief Justice either from at home or abroad be expeditiously made lest the process becomes caught up in the kind of unsavoury gossip so seemingly endemic in small societies.