Why is the criminal justice systems in Barbados so dysfunctional? Can you imagine they are people being held on remand for over four years, without being charge of crime? Each visit to court police prosecutor D. Cumberbatch will intimidate them into entering guilty plea for crimes they never committed.
You should take a look at a defendant Earl Victor arrested for a robbery he never committed and has been held without charge for almost 5 years. It’s about time we notified Amnesty International, and The US State Department to change its aid commitment to Barbados.
The appointment of CJ Gibson – selected from outside the inner ring – was welcomed by BU. If the delivery of justice has to fit a definition which says justice delayed is justice denied then the backlog of cases reported to be in the thousands before Gibson’s appointment represents a sad tale. It is one year since CJ Gibson’s appointment and there is no noticeable improvement in the delivery of justice from our Court System.
To add to the high expectation for an improved justice system Andrew Pilgrim was elected to head the Barbados Bar Association. Many believed at the time of his appointment that a no nonsense Pilgrim and Gibson possessed the characteristics between them to make a difference to a justice system which has ground to snail pace.
The saying to whom much is given much is expected rings very loud in the case of CJ Gibson. The government stirred controversy by amending the Supreme Court of Judicature Act of Barbados in the dead of night to ensure Gibson’s appointment could not be challenged. To be fair to CJ Gibson he has become a strident voice in support of the implementation of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). ADR is not a new idea but the devil is always in the detail (implementation).
Trouble with ADR though is while it can be made mandatory, it only works as mandatory in family law cases. BU agrees that all family law cases i.e. divorce, custody, estate family arrangement etc should go to mediation.
CJ Gibson says that there are 2000 new cases a year, but he doesn’t give a breakdown of the nature of the cases. How many of the 2000 are family law, how many are corporate, commercial and how many are criminal. In other words approximately how many cases a year could be sent to ADR to have the affect of relieving the case load currently choking the system? If he is able to implement ADR, how many cases will that leave per year for the courts to settle? This is vital information to accurately estimate how many new judges will be required to ensure efficient processing of backlog cases reported to be about 3000.
At this stage a suggestion would be to bring in some experienced common law eagles and give them a certain number of cases each and let them wade in. Most civil cases are heard in chambers, so there is not a lot of problem with facilitating this arrangement. This is a low hanging solution, one would have thought CJ Gibson could have rolled out a flavour of this solution. Instead he continues to talk about ADR ad nauseam which he knows is not the answer because ADR is only binding if both parties agree, and if they do not, the case ends up back on the court roster. It is a nice to have in a situation where there is efficient processing of court cases and add to the quality of justice dispensed.
It is interesting to note Trinidad and Tobago intends to make cases which have been loitering in the system for 10 years eligible for dismissal. The decision which is intended to relieve congestion in the Court System does not include “murder, manslaughter, rape and other similar serious crimes”.