Chief Justice Marston Gibson gave a most interesting delivery at the University of the West Indies (UWI) on October 26, 2011. We are indebted to the Bajan Reporter for this video of the interview.
Pressed by time Ian Bourne of Bajan Reporter was not able to pose the following question but it was emailed to CJ Gibson, who kindly distributed his email addresses to those in attendance.
“My Lord, we know that the delays in the judicial system are attributable to several different sources, most prominently the registry and the inexcusable delays in delivering judgements on the parts of the judges. Does Your Lordship believe that these excessive delays constitute gross judicial misconduct, given the excessive personal and financial hardship that these delays (some of several years duration) pose to litigants, amounting to what is a denial of justice; and if so, is Your Lordship prepared to move under the Constitution to have removed from office these delinquent judges?”
The CJ comes across as a very caring, bright and widely experienced Bajan. There is none of the grandeur that one has come to associate with persons in his position. He is also obviously very hands on. This is very encouraging.
However, BU has a few issues with some of what the CJ had to say:
Magistrates checking records of defendants before sentencing. But surely this is the job of the police or whoever is prosecuting. It is the job of the prosecutor to make the magistrate or judge aware of prior bad acts. But there should be an intranet (not Internet) in any case where these details are kept, accessible to certain parties through a password. The CJ may wish to consider the impact on human rights and rights to privacy should such information be available on the Internet to all and sundry. Suppose that person immigrated. Their records in Barbados would be available to any overseas employer and might adversely affect their employment possibilities etc.
Juror’s, court officials etc. using social networking to give information on cases. We were a little surprised by the CJ’s handling of this and his proposals to prevent it. As he made reference to the English Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, we thought he might have known how the English Lord Chief Justice, Lord Igor Judge, dealt with a case of a juror indulging in just what our CJ has discussed. In England and Wales, they call it CONTEMPT OF COURT. Here is the BBC report: . The juror concerned was jailed for 8 months: That was THIS YEAR!
Having cell phones surrendered and receipts issued for same before entering court. In the theatre, they make an announcement asking everyone to turn off their cell phones. In cinemas, they put a notice on the screen asking the same. Would it not be better for the clerk of the court or judge/magistrate to ask everyone in the court to ensure that their cell phones are either switched off or switched to silent before commencing the proceedings? The cost of personnel to receive and issue receipts and then to collect up the receipts and hand back the phones would be avoided. So too would be the almost inevitable claim with a very expensive of cutting-edge phone, of it having been “lost”. It also has to be said that lawyers themselves might object to handing over their cell phones as they are likely using these to communicate with their offices, receive information on the case they are trying and, on occasion, give instructions to their offices to prepare for immediate emergency appeal as the result of a ruling given on any aspect of their cases by any single member of our questionable judiciary. So, Chief Justice, with respect, you may find it better and cheaper and far less hassle to copy the procedure and announcement of the Frank Collymore Hall.
Sentencing. The CJ is right on target, in our respectful view, on his observations of sentencing problems and crimes that involve persons who have psychiatric problems. In this day and age, the majority of the psychiatric problems we encounter in Barbados can be solved by medication and a little counselling. There are high instances of psychosis in Barbados that could be addressed by the increasingly sophisticated medication on the market – problem is that this would cost the taxpayers money. But we have to seriously question whether keeping someone on psychiatric medication for the rest of their lives, during which time they would hold down jobs and contribute as tax payers, might not be FAR more cost effective than the cost to the taxpayer of just a year in our new and very expensive state-of-the-art prison at Dodds, with the inevitable exposure to hardened and habitual criminals. The problem we face in this respect is the public perception of those who have mental health issues. Unfortunately, still too many people in Barbados continue to live in the dark ages where there was no effective medication and “Jenkins” was the only solution. We were amazed to see the UK’s statistics on people suffering from mental health issues. According to the UK statistics, one in every four persons in Britain is a sufferer. But their community mental health centres throughout the country help those people so that they live happy and productive lives.
We are encouraged by and supportive of the CJ’s position here and will encourage and assist him all we can to change the Bajan public’s perception of mental health issues.
Finally, His Lordship talked extensively about technology. However, he needs to consider that there are many people who would like to act on their own behalves (without lawyers) in court proceedings. BUT, the guidance that they need to effectively do this is not easily available online. It amazes us that even the court decisions in Barbados, which must be typed on a computer (and Windows 7 has the ability to immediately render these are PDFs) yet Supreme Court website, which is supposed to carry these decisions, is so woefully backward. Also, does it really take that much to scan to PDF all the decisions going back to Independence in 1966, so that there is a complete list of case law for Barbados for the general public?
As we have noted on another blog, while it is acceptable for Wikipedia not to know that Marston Gibson is now the Barbados Chief Justice, there is no excuse whatsoever for the Barbados Bar Association not having recorded this on its website.