ECSC Chief Justice address state of judiciary

GIS: The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Speaks on the Impact of Recent Hurricanes on the Administration of Justice.

Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), Her Ladyship, Hon. Dame Janice M. Pereira, in a televised address on the impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria on the member states and territories of the ECSC, said three of the court’s nine member-states and territories—Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Territory of the Virgin Islands—were severely impacted by the passage of the catastrophic storms. Not only was there loss of life, and destruction of housing and public infrastructure, but the impact on the judiciary and the administration of justice has been tremendous.

“Court infrastructure has been badly damaged. Judges have not only been displaced but they have also suffered significant losses of their belongings and their homes. Some members of the court staff have been made homeless whilst others have been left with nothing at all. Many law offices have been completely destroyed. Above all, this catastrophic event has left so many traumatized, and the long dark nights will forever be etched in the annals of their minds.

“Our brothers and sisters in the member states and territories affected are focused on their recovery, that is, the acquisition of food, water, and shelter—the basics of life. The aftermath of these killer storms, given the magnitude of the destruction, reveals that the road to full recovery will be a long and arduous one requiring much patience, understanding, and a willing spirit of cooperation from all our fellowmen.

“I take this opportunity to reiterate the court’s support to the countries across the Caribbean region affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria. The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the affected member states and territories. We will do all in our power to ensure that every effort is made to bring some normalcy to their lives and we remain ready and willing to help in any way possible to meet their dire needs.”

Even with the difficult conditions on the affected islands, the Chief Justice said the court is committed to ensuring the continued administration of justice in those member states and territories. Caribbean governments and court officials Her Ladyship added, were working tirelessly to locate physical infrastructure to house court offices and court rooms and to retrieve physical court documents.  This however, has been difficult as many buildings have been left unusable and a considerable percentage of court files have now been lost.

“Nonetheless, the ECSC will take all steps to ensure that the courts in Anguilla, Dominica, and the Virgin Islands are running at their optimal level in the shortest possible time by whatever means are reasonable and practical in the interim. We have implemented systems to ensure the hearing of urgent court applications and trials from Anguilla and the Virgin Islands. Dominica, unfortunately is still very much in the recovery stage and assessments of court infrastructure and documents are ongoing.

“There are many lessons to be learned from these awful disasters ranging from an assessment of levels of preparedness, to our ability to respond quickly and effectively in times of adversity. The reality is that hurricanes Irma and Maria will not be the last. The question is not ‘if’ but ‘when’ will our islands be battered by another. Whether we are dealing with man-made disasters or natural disasters, the role of the court is integral and vital to upholding the rule of law.”

Chief Justice Dame Janice Pereira, expressed gratitude to the Government of Saint Lucia, for the efforts in lending assistance to the court and its dislocated judicial officers.