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OECS Bar Association Condemns Attacks On The Judiciary By Gonsalves & Mottley
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The OECS Bar Association (“the OECS Bar”), joins with its Commonwealth Caribbean counterparts in strongly condemning recent statements made by Prime Ministers Mia Motley and Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, which clearly constitute an attack on the independence of the judiciary and regrettably reflect a disconnect from the realities of criminal behaviour in society and the role of the Judiciary.
WIDELY PUBLISHED STATEMENTS
In statements widely published in the media throughout the region, both Prime Ministers harshly criticized judges for granting bail for murder and effectively accused judicial officers of favourtism to certain lawyers.
Dr. Gonsalves characterized “too many” judges and magistrates as being “too soft” and called for the carrying out of the death penalty as a form of punishment.
Both Prime Ministers were speaking at the two (2) day Regional Crime Symposium held in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on April 17th and 18th 2023, under the theme “Violence as a Public Health Issue – The Crime Challenge”.
MISSING THE FOCUS
Instead of focusing on the real issues impacting crime, such as the lack of investment in youth, the family, education, the judicial system, the police, and the crown prosecution service, some leaders preferred playing the blame game – blaming everybody else but the politicians currently in office.
The OECS Bar is truly disappointed at the missed opportunity at the symposium, in such an esteemed setting, in finding new and creative ways to tackle the scourge of crime, but instead leaving the headlines blazing and opportunistically focused on judges and magistrates who speak from their judgments and are in no position to defend themselves publicly against such attacks.
It is especially disturbing that the offending statements came from two very admired former legal practitioners, one of whom was a formidable defence lawyer.
WHOLLY UNFAIR AND UNFOUNDED
The attacks on judicial officers were wholly unfair, unfounded, uncalled for, and misplaced.
Our Bar Associations in the region have been consistently calling, over the years, for an overdue injection of resources to boost our legal system long suffering from poor accommodation, woefully inadequate and ill-equipped supporting registries, a serious shortage of judges to meet the ever-growing demand of cases within the system, and a lack of basic equipment and tools for transcription and other services ancillary to the work of judicial officers.
It is well known that judicial officers are largely overworked and operate under less-than-desirable conditions.
Examples abound in the Eastern Caribbean of governments not paying their required financial contributions to the court, causing serious embarrassment to the judiciary.
Growing backlogs of cases in the High Court and Court of Appeal, seriously impacting the administration of justice, are not creations of the judiciary but stem largely from an under-resourced judicial system.
NOT ABOVE CRITICISM
The OECS Bar wishes to make it clear that judicial officers are not above criticism. However, Bar Associations have a duty to rise in the defence of judicial officers against unfair and unwarranted criticism, especially by agents of other arms of the State
seeking to absolve themselves of responsibility and heaping blame on them in circumstances where they cannot defend themselves.
The OECS Bar remains troubled by the statements of the two distinguished leaders, whose pronouncements carry great weight and influence in the region, and who know or ought to know the historical challenges within the legal system. Fortunately, judges
are sworn to uphold the constitution and the law, not to follow the dictates of politicians.
PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE
The OECS Bar wishes to remind our CARICOM leaders that our Constitutions mandate that every person charged with a criminal offence is entitled to the presumption of innocence and to a fair trial within a reasonable time.
The presumption of innocence applies no less to persons charged with murder. In several jurisdictions across the region, bail has long been granted in murder matters.
In any event, judges act judicially, not arbitrarily. Each bail application will be considered on its own merit and a decision taken after considering well-established judicial guidelines.
Bail is not automatic. Holding persons on remand for murder for long extended periods, in some countries for more than 10 and 15 years, without the possibility of bail, clearly infringes the guaranteed fundamental right to a fair trial.
BOUND BY DECISIONS OF HIGHER COURTS
Further, judges are bound by the decision of higher courts.
If the Privy Council has therefore declared that withholding bail for murder is unconstitutional, then our judges must follow and apply the law accordingly.
Moreover, under our system of separation of powers, the executive, legislative and judicial arms are co-equal and constitutionally mandated to perform specific roles.
Parliament, comprising a body of elected and appointed politicians, passes the laws which the courts apply.
The OECS Bar further wishes to remind our CARICOM leaders that punishment aims, not only at retribution, but also at deterrence and rehabilitation. Studies have shown that the death penalty does not meet the aims of deterrence and obviously provides no room for rehabilitation.
BROAD COLLABORATIVE APPROACH REQUIRED
The OECS Bar recognizes the many challenges of crime fighting and calls on CARICOM leaders to be measured, mature, responsible, and objective in their public utterances, especially on issues that evoke strong public sentiment and may tend to erode trust and confidence in our judiciary.
Crime fighting requires a broad collaborative approach involving not only the key stakeholders but also the public.
We urge our leaders to desist from their unfair and unfounded attacks on the judiciary and provide the resources to build a strong and effective justice system.
The OECS Bar pledges to continue to defend the independence of the judiciary, uphold the rule of law and promote a more efficient and effective administration of justice.
We shall also continue to educate and empower the public on issues touching and concerning the law and on burning issues impacting the administration of justice.
SOURCE: OECS Bar Association
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Mi rhatid! Somebody’s feelings got hurt. What a response.
Oh oh, the bar association got their feeling hurt. Oh well. Bail for possession of illegal firearm again.
I guess that it hurts to hear the truth. Criminals who are committing multiple offensives are getting bailed out for a few thousand dollars, heading straight back to the same community to terrorize the citizens even more. One day, those same Criminals will end up the judge’s door steps. Just wait.
Both sides are correct to a large extent however, what the bar association has failed to admit is that some of its judges and magistrates are plain and simply CORRUPT. Decision are awarded based on background and status. Deals are made behind closed doors and in some instances these deals involve murder suspects. One won’t imagine how some matters are dealt with behind closed doors. How some of the jurors are interfered with in order to arrive at certain desired outcomes, especially when it involves people with connections. If a matter is appealed you will never get a fair outcome if the appeal judge is friends with the judge who heard the case. This is one of the reasons I have always supported the Privy Council. Rest assured that decisions will always go in favor of those from Cap Estate who can wine and dine them at every opportunity. Sad but true. And then they want to be revered and treated like gods. Hell no!! So Ralph and Mia are absolutely correct in their assessment. How can we stop gang violence when the very shooters are arrested and within hours are back on the streets, because of bail conditions, to continue their killing spree. How can that be right!!!!! Sadly, it takes some of us/them becoming victims ourselves/themselves to fully comprehend the gravity of the situation.
They are right.
@ Polius ..your penultimate sentence is inevitable. Maybe that what it takes for major reform. Repeat offenders are tearing apart communities and the system is facilitating this.
@Polius you are spot on .. while we understand the issue of innocent until proven guilty. What we also need to know is that the small islands are usually privy to who the offenders are without doubt. In addition, releasing them on bail only makes matters worst. Let the truth therefore …prevail.
The Bar Assoc is right to point out some of real challenges to swift and fair justice. And they are right to point out what both Gonzalves and Mottley know. It is the Privy Council that ruled withholding bail for murder is unconstitutional. Therefore the judges must follow and apply the law accordingly. I disagree with the statement where the Association gives an opinion on the effectiveness of capital punishment. That was not on. I really don’t give two hoots what the association or the privy council thinks on that score. You can’t claim the right to apply the law and at the same time say you don’t support capital punishment, because capital punishment is still on the law books in many countries. If the laws call for capital punishment you must apply it in cases that warrant it. But now we know why OECS judges have not sentenced any criminal to hang for some time now.
Well well well is it a case of the executive blaming the legislative, the judiciary blamimg the executive and round and round we go.
Not trying to devalue the content of the response….
But the irony is the number of politicians who moved from the judiciary into the executive.
Amen Amen and Amen when corruption overtakes a system everyone including Just will pay the price they know full well who the corrupt ones are!!!
Eh Eh you attack my old UWI lecturer Gonsalves!
If mate say something you must LISTEN!
We are in the mess in the Caribbean because we too busy defending what is wrong. Lawyers are only there to make a money. Enough of them in each country to stone dawg so is a dog eat dog world!
If you lawyers who have so many advantages in our poor Caribbean cannot do anything to make things better then just keep quiet and start making the system work by making some effort for the country instead of yourselves.
The bar association – eh!. It must have been one mouth piece barking and the other haul their tails in. The man is right because either way all lawyers are politically connected whether its in opposition or ruling and they are the facilitator of corruption.
How can Gonzalves be right when he blames judges for the wrong reason? As a former criminal lawyer who used all kinds of loopholes in the law to benefit his clients, you mean to tell me Gonzalves does not know OECS judges are bound by the decisions of the Privy Council? Why blame them for something he knows damn well they’re not responsible for. Is Gonzalves unaware of the posture of the Privy Council on capital punishment? Doesn’t he know that on that score the Privy Council is pushing the policy of the European Union? These leaders must stop these disingenuous statements and take real action to address rising crime in the region. Choops
Those two are not too bright.. By blaming the wrong people for our current situation.. The whole system needs revamping,, In society, each and every one of us should follow our duties fare and square and it doesn’t matter what position we hold in life..
We should try and eradicate,lies, Greed, hate.jelousy., etc.I don’t care Who you think you are,as long as you are in one of the above Elements, Evil is winning…
Let’s open our minds and stop Evil from spreading.Most of the times, we give some people too much credit and allow them to rule out our lives for us.. The Island’s politicians are the same as ever other politicians in the world, and so are the others in every part of the world.. GREED GREED and more Greed and that creates Corruptions would wide..
We create jail’s and blame the lawyer and the judge, the the criminal activities being decontrolled.
Quite the blame game and Use commonsense to solve our current problems in the Caribbean and the world over,, We are all in the same boat currently..
Damn it – stop dancing around the truth, its the same old Caribbean system of Law enforcement, it never changed and will never change. As long as some can confuse the many with their long black Gowns, fake Wigs and the absolute stupid masquerade borrowed from their former Colonial masters, it will never change. The public blinded by all this pomp and glory sucks it in bright day light, while on evenings at the Gentlemen’s Club, the old boys meet to drink their Martini Dry. After a while I think people will get tired of the crap; too much of this thing will overwhelm psyche, some will increase the drinking, the Downers drug, smoking, sleeping pills, carry more lethal weapons for protection like some in forbidden places, seen bulging from their pockets. Too soft on the Bastards that created all that will create an even greater national problem. I’ve always maintained, you damn s.o.b., if YOU KILL – YOU HANG, no questions asked, may God forgive you, next Case please?
All dem leaders are the ONLY ones responsible for crime in the Caribbean. If we look at the perks they each got from tax payers to travel to this symposium or whatever it was you will understand. Then they say no funds to invest in meaningful crime fighting strategies. The judges can only preside on what is in the law and the laws in our countries are set by those same leaders. What ashame that they will paly on people ignorance and blame us, lawyers etc for their failures and greed and corruption.
You see this nonsense this is the reason why things will always be corrupt. What these prime ministers said is nothing far from the truth cause that’s what the judges are. SOFT cause we have these same problems in saint lucia that’s why the police don’t go after the criminals cause as soon as they are locked up they are out on bail. Everytime when you speak the truth people always want to silence you and make you the bad person
We have a sad situation where the prescribed system in place is failing, there is no short term or long term direction for a fix and there is an existing high cost being paid by the public for what currently exists, all from the perspective of finance, property and lives. Each system or scenario has its advantages and disadvantages, but with the failures of the existing system its costs are quickly offsetting its benefits. The point of this comment is that with all the parties that utilise their abilities to favour whatever position, if the cost of the existing system is allowed to outweigh its benefit prepare for the eventual collapse of that system and the subsequent chaos until a new order emerges which can include the advocated death penalty.