Chaos In The Magistrates’ Courts

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

Some time ago, I read in the Nation newspaper that Attorney-at-law, Hal Gollop, had objected to the Chief Magistrate, Mr. Clyde Nicholls presiding over a case after he (Nicholls) went on pre-retirement leave and another person had been appointed to act in his post. As I understand it, Mr. Gollop argued that since someone had already been appointed to act in the post, Mr. Nicholls would be precluded from performing the functions of that office. In essence, Gollop was saying that two persons could not function as chief magistrate at the same time

I am not one to just accept anything, so I decided to research the point for myself, and came up with section 114 (2) of the Constitution which states:

‘Where by this Constitution a power is conferred upon any person or authority to make any appointment to any public office, a person may be appointed to that office notwithstanding that some other person may be holding that office when that other person is on leave of absence pending relinquishment of the office; and where two or more persons are holding the same office by reason of an appointment made in pursuance of this subsection, then for the purposes of any function conferred upon the holder of that office the person last appointed shall be deemed to be the sole holder of the office.’

I must concede that Mr. Gollop had a point. However, to my mind, his point would have created problems for the administration of justice, and I was really looking forward to see how the problems would be rectified. I did not have to wait for very long to see what Government did to hopefully resolve the issues. The answer came in the Official Gazette dated June 9, 2011: notice number 863 had a number of interesting items that have some relevance.

Firstly, Ms. Manila Renee, principal crown council, was appointed to act as magistrate with effect from May 1, 2011 until further notice but not later than July 31, 2011. Secondly, later in the same notice, the public was informed that the acting appointments of both Magistrate Deborah Holder, as chief magistrate, and Ms Manila Renee, as magistrate, had been revoked for the period May 18, 2011 to June 12 2011. Presumably, that would have solved the problem of having two chief magistrates and one too many magistrates

I do not know and am therefore left to wonder what would have been the effect if Ms. Manila Renee had heard any cases during that period and worse yet, suppose she had sentence anyone to prison during the period when she was not a magistrate. This scenario boggles the mind.

0 thoughts on “Chaos In The Magistrates’ Courts

  1. WE are making sport with justice in Barbados. Listening to Mia Mottley’s address last Sunday, as reported on BU, it appears the person who was identified as the C.J designate is no longer interseted in the position. It is time the P.M come to the public and let us know what is going on, I’m sure if a C.J was appointed, these problems will or should be addressed. An Acting C.J can only just kept the ship afloat be he can’t bring new policies since he does not know how long he will be in that position.

  2. I have full respect for the judiciary… however, if the state wishes to place an acting magistrate, someone should tell her what her proper ‘role’ is and how she is supposed to ‘perform’ and leave the ‘acting’ for when shes driving around in her hott orange truck… It feels like Hollywood in a certain Acting Magistrates play penn. Otherwise, for the final query helloo appeal the sentence in the CA.

  3. @the Scout: “An Acting C.J can only just kept the ship afloat be he can’t bring new policies since he does not know how long he will be in that position.

    I would argue it somewhat differently.

    An acting Chief Justice has nothing to lose.

    So perhaps they might try to make the changes needed while they are “in control”.

    Or is that too much to ask?

  4. Nice point, Caswell, in respect of Ms Renee,but the subsequent revocation of her duly made acting appointment should not make unlawful what was lawful at the time.

    In any event,though, if you check the dates carefully, the new acting appointment (May 1 to July 31) covers those periods of the now revoked first acting appointment (May 18 to June 12).

  5. Even though Dominique S.Khan ain’t no friend of mine, I’m glad to see that the injustice system in the US has received a slap in its face and that Napoleonic Sarcrazy’s little dirty plan is falling to pieces. Anyone with an oz of brain could have known that something stunk to high heaven when the white owned media started taking the side of a Black woman who accused a White man who was at the top of his game, of rape. {UNHEARD OF]. To hear Wolf Blitzer feign empathy for this woman was a barf bag moment. Since D. S.Khan offended some of his monetary bosses he had to be brought to heel. Follow the money!

    • Surprise we have had no comment about files going missing in the Magistrates Court and the police department taking a decision to appoint an officer in charge of prosecutors and other procedural changes.

  6. David
    I am surprised as well, but for different reasons.
    Section 3 (1) of the Magistrate’s Court Act states:
    “There shall be a Chief Magistrate and such number of other magistrates as there shall be offices established under the Civil Establishment Act.”

    The Public Service Act, which replaced the Civil Establishment Act, provides for one chief magistrate and 10 magistrates. When Mr. Nicholls was performing the functions as chief magistrate and Ms. Holder was also acting as chief magistrate there would have been twelve magistrates. It would therefore appear that the State was acting illegally while trying to enforce the law. I believe that anyone that was tried by the twelfth magistrate would have been tried illegally. If anyone went to prison in those circumstances he/she would be there illegally and should be compensated for wrongful imprisonment.

    Rather than try to make legal that which was illegal, by revoking the acting appointments of two magistrates, Government should have followed the law and allowed Mr. Nicholls to retire gracefully. It now looks as though Government was trying to please the United States by trying to conclude the long-running extradition case that Mr. Nicholls had started. As I understand it, the case should have been restarted by a new magistrate.

    We must not let it appear that our Government would ignore our law in order to please another country. I remember the principled position taken by our Government when the USA wanted to put the now infamous Shiprider Agreement in place.

    David you can now see why I am a bit disappointed that more people did not comment on this blatant attempt to ignore the law. In this case we are dealing with persons accused of crimes, even so, their rights must still be protected or, Are we only going to react when we think that the persons involved are supposedly, law abiding citizens.

    • @Caswell

      Barbadians by there nature prefer to remain in a state of denial about many things.

  7. from Nation ”Sat, July 02, 2011 – 12:04 AM
    A SHOUTING MATCH erupted in a Bridgetown courtroom yesterday.

    It was between prominent attorney and president of the Bar Association, Andrew Pilgrim, and Acting Chief Magistrate Deborah Holder arguing about the fate of an accused person who appeared in the District “A” Magistrates’ Court.

    “I just want a hearing!” Pilgrim yelled.

    “I told you wait,” Acting Chief Magistrate Holder yelled back. (HLE)


    looks like Andrew has decided to push the line, even if at a risk of contempt.

    But, how would that be reported, if he was so held?

    ‘Attorney charged with contempt for argueing about the long delay waiting for a case to be heard?’

    Kudos Andrew, it would have to be you. All the older ones will talk till the cows come home…and do nothing.

  8. Indeed kudos to the bar president for pushing the line. He is one lawyer i think should be made a QC not that will bring much difference. Wonder what the acting cj/appointee cj would make of this.

  9. Yes anothony, Pillie has just voiced in the court what most of us are thinking.

    We are fed up with slow systems i.e. courts, non-transparent systems i.e. awarding of contracts (who is this fellow Bannister by the way, who seems to get all the contracts, first with BLP now with DLP…is he connected, who is his family e.g. mum, dad…just trying to understand how one man can have such strong influence across both parties). I am not saying anything is underhand mind you, just trying to understand how one person can seem to wield such influence…..usually such a thing ties to familial connections….

    We are fed up with poor service, slow and expensive DSL, lack of transparency in expenditures across the spectrum.

    That is exacerbated by two parties who, as was stated by Ralphie Gonsalves and is ably demonstrated by the lack of any real change in transparency and accountability between these two administrations.

    Even Mia, who now aspires to be the next PM, has not told us about the 4 million dollar man based on FBI files…why?????

    Because we are dumbxss citizens who should vote like cattle and then shut the xuck up?

  10. Note that it was Pilgrim himself who was at fault in this matter…the accused merely said that she was represented by Pilgrim. Why was he not there? Why was no excuse made on his behalf? What else was the Magistrate to do?


    Breaking his silence on the issue of the much delayed appointment, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announced yesterday that the top judicial post should be filled by the first week of August.

    Responding to reports that his Government had already decided to give the job to United States-based jurist Marston Gibson, Stuart said he “personally, never made any mention of anybody”

    Very strange. He could have stated who has been chosen for the post and prevent more delay. He has also not confirming or denying the appointment of gibson.So who is the next most likely candidate after gibson if he doesn’t get the pick ?

    • @anthony

      Well the decision will be made soon and we will alll be placed out of our misery.

      It does seem strange Gibson would have done a middle spread in the Nation and the PM would make that comment at the end of the article.

      Maybe there is a last minute change of plans.

  12. indeed prodigal son did say as much so who next most likely candidate ? If it was current acting cj he would be put in place as soon as next gazette so he is most likely not it. we look forward to suggestion for other candidates but gibson did hold great promise of trying to reform the system being away from it for so long . hopefully it will be in august, though i do see it more likely to occur in sept given our pm history with the word soon.

  13. When are you people going to get it through your heads, even with the amendments to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, Mr. Gibson did not qualify to be the Chief Justice. Officialdom refuses to acknowledge that fact because someone who never set foot in a law school pointed out the error.

    They are not alone, the Caribbean Court of Justice committed a grave error that has potential devastating consequences for public officers but has done nothing to correct it. I believe because their error was similarly pointed out.

  14. As a side note why did he wait until caricom meeting to announce anything on the cj decision ? It isn’t a regional issue. He seem to talk more away than at home, maybe we should have him constantly out of island. He seem to take more action then.

  15. Anthony
    Without hearing arguments on the eligibility of pensions for public officers whose posts were abolished, the CCJ confirmed a ruling of the Court of Appeal which makes those officers wait until they reach 60 years, or sooner die, before they can receive any benefits. As a result, when Government reorganize a department with loss of jobs or abolish posts, those officers who are affected receive no unemployment benefits or severance payment. Imagine losing your job at age 35 and having to wait until you reach 60 to get a red cent, but worse yet, the benefit will be calculated at your salary when you lost the job.

    Government has already exploited that misinterpretation to disadvantage the workers at the UDC, and now their sights are on the workers who are affected by the formation of the Financial Services Commission.
    If David permits me I will write a separate post on the subject.

  16. I assuming you mean beyond the nis level for unemployment benefit. No severance payment is quite shocking :(.

  17. Anthony
    Public officers who lose their jobs because of redundancy/abolition of their post are NOT entitled to severance payment or unemployment benefits. According to the CCJ they are only entitled to their pensions when they reach 60 years.

  18. an error was made in hastily getting rid of Sir David.
    Whatever you thought about Sir David , the act to get rid of him was pure folly—-idiots !

  19. @ David

    “It does seem strange Gibson would have done a middle spread in the Nation and the PM would make that comment at the end of the article.”
    Seems to be a similar situation with the appointment of the Director of Medical Services at the QEH.

    In an article by Chris Gollop in the Nation of Febrary 15, 2011, the former Chairman of the QEH Board Rev. Hewitt confirmed the appointment of Dr. Gulzar Mufti indicating:

    “We are very happy to be able to fill this very critical post in the management of the hospital. The process of recruitment has been long, but it was necessary for us to find the best qualified person suited for the job and who is qualified to meet the challenges faced at the QEH. His credentials are unquestionable.”

    Yet, Minister of Health Donville Inniss is in today’s newspaper dismissing Jerome Walcott’s claim (that the QEH Board has appointed the same gentleman who is ineligible according to the QEH Act) as “…not knowing the facts” and “gossip”.

    • @Enuff

      Seems to be a reordering of positions, we shall see, and soon.

      Maybe Stuart has had enough and is going his own way.

  20. Well would be weird. I taught stuart and gibson were old chums. Even given the loss of salary ,what was deem the confusion with he pension and casawell articles on how he still no eligible ( they would just change the laws again ) I would have still expected him to take the position it is after all court referee vs chief article it does seem to imply that gibson is no longer the candidate since he was discussed by the former opposition leader and would not need discussion again. Further from that owen silence seem to indicate that they probably have chosen a local candidate to get around the issue they had with the laws. So any care to suggest who the next most likely candidate? Maybe even the current acting CJ?

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