Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has slammed the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), accusing it of “salaciously” slandering Barbados when it criticizes the island for delays in its criminal justice system, while other Caribbean territories with even lengthier delays escape such public rebuke.
Contributing to today’s debate in the House of Assembly on the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) (Amendment) Bill, 2017, during which several members spoke of delays in the justice system, Stuart’s remarks suggested annoyance at the CCJ for berating this island’s justice system, while other Caribbean islands that are under the jurisdiction of the British Privy Council get only “one sentence” reprimands.
“I do not myself get too overwhelmed by what the Caribbean Court of Justice says. We do not rejoice that there are delays in the system. There are delays and we have to deal with them.
“But I sometimes think that Barbados is being unnecessary slandered by some of the reports which I see,” Stuart said in reference to the number of times in recent years that the island’s final appellate court has scolded Barbados for judicial delays.
In addition to Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana are the only Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries which have the CCJ as their final court of appeal. The other countries still go to the Privy Council for final litigation of criminal cases, with the regional court acting as an arbiter in cases that involve interpretation of the Treaty of Charguaramas.
Stuart said this was why the CCJ could deliver such stinging criticisms of Barbados.
“All the others still go the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and when you read decisions coming out of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council … evidence of horrible delays is uncovered in CARICOM countries that have not signed on to the CCJ,” Stuart said, adding that “the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council handles that issue of delays much less salaciously than seems to be the case when the issue is being handled here in the Caribbean”.
These issues, Stuart said, are dealt with by the Privy Council “in one sentence, two at most, without any administering of rebuke or any holding up of a particular country to ridicule.
“But a lot more salaciously issues are handled in this region,” he said in reference to CCJ rebukes.
The Prime Minister said that the issue of delays in the criminal justice system “is a serious problem for all countries and we have to confront the problem because we all know that justice delayed is justice denied”.
He added that Barbadians had a “vested interest” in a properly functioning judicial system, but added, “it is not going to function efficiently if whenever there is evidence that there is delay . . . a country is held up to ridicule and the impression is given that the system is not working”.
Stuart said the opinions he expressed today were not new because he had raised his concerns elsewhere, although he did not say where or when.
Following the CCJ’s verdict in favour of Jamaican Shanique Myrie in 2013, the Prime Minister had complained that the automatic six-month stay for CARICOM nationals imposed by the court would open the floodgates for the unemployed and criminals.
However, he said at the time Barbadians ought to respect the ruling because Barbados was not “any banana, plantain or fig republic” but “a country governed by the rule of law”.
Today, he gave the assurance that Barbados would not rest on its laurels on the issue of the slow pace at which the wheels of justice turns here, “but I am just saying that it is a regional problem and it just happens that those countries that have signed on to the CCJ come under the CCJ spotlight.
“Those that have not signed on to the CCJ come under the spotlight of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council that deals with these issues fundamentally differently from how they are handled in the region.”
The Prime Minister said, “the impression should not be given in any quarter that we hear about delays, or we know about them, and we’re doing nothing about them”.