The Coordinator of the National Centre for Legal Aid and Human Rights, Mary Francis, has expressed concern about the operations of the District Court in Castries, expressing the view that Saint Lucians must come out and protest.
“It is appalling to see up to now, almost one year since the District Court was dislocated from the usual building at Peynier Street and scattered all over, nothing has been done to get the court housed back on Penynier Street,” Francis said in an interview with the Times.
The Attorney at Law recalled that assurances were given that renovations to the court building and removal of mold infestation would have been completed in the New Year.
But she lamented that a quarter of the New Year has elapsed and this has not happened.
“It is appalling to see the conditions that the Magistrates have to work in,” Francis said.
She recalled being at court yesterday morning and being hard pressed to find a desk at which to write.
“How could a lawyer be expected to come to court and there is no facility for taking your notes?” She asked.
Francis observed that poor people who have matters in the District Court have to take transportation to go to Gros Islet to obtain a date in the “C” court, which manages court “D”.
She noted that everyone who has to obtain a court date has to go to Gros Islet.
According to Francis, this is costly at a time when Saint Lucia is experiencing high unemployment.
“I would like to know whether the Ministry of Justice is concerned about the plight of poor people, because they are the ones who are brought before the court,” the Attorney at Law and Human Rights Activist asserted.
She observed that the District Court if the first link in the chain when it comes to the criminal justice system, since all matters must be lodged there, go through the initial hearing for a date and if the offence is indictable, it is sent to the High Court for case management.
Francis accused the authorities of neglecting and showing disdain for the District Court.
“It must not be allowed continue because where is the respect for the Magistrates, the justice system?” Francis told the Times.
She felt that by now a building should have been acquired to house the District Court and reflect the level of respect that should be given to the justice system.
“These are the things we should be concerned about, not what we hear on the political platforms right now,” the Human Rights Campaigner noted.
She asserted that people will have to come out on the streets in protest to get the matter addressed.