BU family member, Anonlegal, has brought to our attention a case recently ruled on by the English Court of Appeal. Bond v Dunster Properties Ltd and others  EWCA Civ 455. For the legal eagles amongst our readership, here is access to the complete decision.
Of particular interest to BU, however, is the fact that the lower court judge reserved his decision for 22 months and the Master of the Rolls (the head of England’s Court of Appeal) has ordered a full investigation into that judge’s delinquency. Here is what the Court of Appeal had to say and please note that the emphases are BU’s:
Lady Justice Arden :
“Everyone is entitled to a hearing…within a reasonable time”
The thrust of the appeal is against the judge’s findings of fact. A major cause of complaint is that the judge did not hand down judgment until some 22 months after the conclusion of the hearing and that as one result his findings of fact are against the weight of the evidence. This extraordinary delay clearly called for an apology and, if any existed, an explanation of the mitigating circumstances. However, so far as we are aware, there was none. Litigation is stressful for the parties, sometimes because they are members of the same family and sometimes because the transactions are commercial in nature and their outcome has implications for other transactions that the parties or others need to carry out. Life has to go on before, during and after litigation. In some cases, a delay in producing a judgment may prevent the parties from reaping any benefit from the litigation at all. Unfortunately, this case involves both the elements of close family relations and of commercial transactions. Irrespective of the respective merits of the appeal, this court has no reservation in expressing its sympathies for the parties as a result of the length of time they had to wait for this judgment. We would include others involved in the litigation such as the witnesses and the professional advisers. Delays of this order are lamentable and unacceptable.
The matter goes further than just the effect on the parties. An unreasonable delay of this kind reflects adversely on the reputation and credibility of the civil justice system as a whole, and reinforces the negative images which the public can have of the way judges and lawyers perform their roles. If there were regular delays of this order, the rule of law would be undermined. There can, of course, be very different reasons for delay, such as ill-health of the judge or a close relative. In rare cases it could be a reprehensible lack of diligence or even sometimes a belief that the parties might do better to settle their differences or to conduct their affairs without knowing the legal result. None of these reasons, except serious ill-health of the judge, would, however, justify a substantial delay beyond the usual period taken for delivering judgments. This may vary according to the tier of the court but is usually taken to be three months.
The opening cross-heading of this judgment is a quotation from article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which has been given protection under domestic law by the Human Rights Act 1998. A “hearing” includes the delivery of judgment. The right is not a new one or one which is alien to the common law. Clause 40 of Magna Carta provides: “To no one will we …delay… justice”.
Barbados, which purports to be a common law jurisdiction, has, by its constitution, accepted the principals of Magna Carta of 1215 as being part of the law of the land.
Yet, by this ruling, it would seem that the comment of Sir Frederick Smith that “Judges in Barbados seem to think that they have a constitutional right to be stupid”, does not go far enough. Judges in Barbados indeed seem to think that they are above the law and subject to no rules whatsoever – and we refer to judges right across the board.
For, if every delinquent case in Barbados was to be appealed in the same manner as this one in England, there is not a single member of the judiciary (either High Court or Court of Appeal) that would not be under investigation and censure. In Barbados, a reserved judgment of 22 months is NOTHING. Here in Barbados, we have MANY decisions “reserved” for periods in excess of 5 years. We have cases that remain part-heard for far longer than 22 months, with no dates set (or even thought of) for the resumption of hearing.
BU adopts the comment of Lady Justice Arden. “Delays of this order are lamentable and unacceptable”. BU goes further. BU states that the Barbados Justice System has become an international laughing stock.
And Government appears to be conspiring with the judiciary and the Barbados Bar in this unacceptable and lamentable and ridiculous situation by its delinquency and failure to gazette and install Marston Gibson as Chief Justice of Barbados, so that the long road to recovery in the justice system can be commenced and so the World can stop sniggering and scorning our justice system.
What are we not being told? Why are we not being told it?
There is no doubt that government chose Mr Gibson to be the new Chief Justice and the excuse that they have never officially announced it does not cut it. To rely on such an excuse would be to treat us, the electorate, as though we are mentally defective children, or worse. That we are back in the slave days, with us the slaves and government and the justice system as the massas.
Whatever happened to the principals of Magna Carta? What the hell is going on?