Tales From the Courts Part XI: Sir Frederick Smith Attacked by Nation Editorial – when hypocrisy becomes high camp
BU has read with interest the editorial in the Sunday Sun of 10 March 2012 in which the writer launched an attack on Sir Frederick Smith QC for comments made about the Barbados judiciary. BU holds no brief for Sir Frederick but one is left to question the motive of the ‘editor’ of what is regarded as the most widely circulated newspaper in Barbados.
BU’s research confirms that in the mid-90s Sir Frederick delivered a speech to a legal body, an event attended by judges and members of the Bar from throughout the Caribbean. At that time, Sir Frederick stated, inter alia, “It appears to me that judges in Barbados think they have a constitutional right to be stupid.” Sir Frederick is consistent – unlike the “editor” of the Nation.
The tenor of the “editorial” suggests someone has an axe to grind. Could it be there is some fire rage being directed at Sir Frederick Smith because he was chosen to deliver the eulogy for retired judge, Lindsay Worrell, the father of Mr Justice Randall Worrell.
The editorial gets off to a pompous start:
“As guardians of the public interest, we are more than a little concerned about a recent comment which has the capacity to challenge the competence, if not the integrity, of our High Court judges and the institution of the judiciary itself.”
We are forced to ask the ‘editor’ who wrote this bovine excrement when there are:
over 3,000 cases outstanding, some filed as long ago as 1994 and counsel on whom have repeatedly written to the Registrar and successive chiefs justice seeking to have them set down and, since the days of Sir Denys Williams, have failed to receive a single reply;
people on remand for, in some instances, over 5 years;
massive numbers of cases that are part-heard (by “part-heard” we mean that they were adjourned in the midst of hearing and have not been resumed – and in some cases, there may be as little as one day left for the hearing to be completed) – this is a breach of the constitutional rights of litigants and the breach is practiced by the very courts whose officers swear an oath, hand on Bible, to up hold the Constitution;
the reservation of judgements by judges for years, despite the requirement that rulings be given within 90 days and, in cases of extremely complex cases, 180 days – which renders the delay unconstitutional. BU suggests to the author of the “editorial” that he/she browse the CCJ’s decisions, 95% (in civil cases) of which are extremely critical of Barbados’ justice system on the subject of delay;
when Miss Kentish
o writes a judgement without naming a party to whom the judgement is directed, because there is none;
o recuses herself from a case and, post recusal, gives an order in the case;
o is constantly successfully appealed; and
o is being sued for not doing her job as a judge;
when two British women are raped (and one kept in a police car while the police woman driving her spends half an hour buying a T shirt) and a man is arrested for both rapes and charged and placed on remand and a confession beaten out of him and BOTH women inform the DPP and the CoP that this is NOT the man who raped them, BUT the CoP insists that they are wrong and the DPP also thinks the same as the CoP and the women retain counsel to defend the accused and also report the matter which goes viral in the UK and international press and Barbados potentially loses tens of millions of dollars in tourism revenue and all respect for its judicial system;
when the Chief Justice of Barbados takes almost a year to deliver a judgement which, when delivered, shows errors in law that make it instantly appealable and reversible on appeal;
when the same Chief Justice writes to counsel saying that he can arbitrarily change judges on cases in mid-stream, which will lead to constitutional actions being brought against Barbados and joining that Chief Justice personally – in other words, the Chief Justice of Barbados will be sued in his own court for breaches of the Administration of Justice Act and the Constitution – which, as he has sworn to uphold both, is gross misconduct;
when there are MANY actions brought by litigants against the courts for breaches of their constitutional rights, but the courts are conspiring to either lose the files or to ensure that these cases are not set down for hearing (we know of some that have been waiting for 4 years); and
when the excuse of the Registrar is invariable that “the file is lost”:
Then we need to ask the writer of the “editorial” why he thinks that Sir Frederick Smith’s comments have, “the capacity to challenge the competence, if not the integrity, of our High Court judges and the institution of the judiciary itself.”
BU suggests that it is not Sir Frederick who has challenged “the competence and integrity of the High Court judges and the institution of the judiciary itself”. That has been challenged by the institution of the judiciary itself. It is not Sir Frederick’s comments that have “the potential to undermine confidence in the judiciary if perchance they fall on fertile ground”. The judiciary is doing a damn good job on its own.
Sir Frederick says that Errol Barrow got it wrong – but in defence of Mr Barrow, BU feels impelled to point out that the lawyer of the standards and personal professional integrity of Mr Barrow might have found it impossible to foresee the conduct and tactics of a government and attorney general that allowed an attorney general to be “translated” from attorney general to chief justice in the blink of an eye. Indeed, Mr Barrow would have found the present state of the justice system that he served with such distinction for so many years, questionable
On 18 March 2011, Nation reporter, Wade Gibbons, reported on the comments of Sir Roy Marshall. Here is the link for the edification of the Nation ‘editor’ who wrote this “editorial”: The comments of Sir Roy Marshall were very similar in content, if not in tone, to those of his learned colleague, Sir Frederick Smith. It amazes that the Nation, merely two years ago, was publishing a headline that read, “Shame!” in connection with the self-same justice system it now seeks to defend. Today, because it suits the author of this “editorial” it chooses to denigrate the comments of Sir Frederick who has simply told Bajans the truth and confirmed the terminal state of Barbados judicial system that BU has been reporting on from our inception.
“As defenders of the public interest, and against the backdrop of current reality, and as a paper of record, we felt a duty not to remain silent! What pomposity! Someone is clearly extremely upset that Sir Frederick was asked to deliver the eulogy for Lindsay Worrell. They are even more upset with poor old Sleepy for doing what Sleepy has always done – tell the truth regardless.
BU has always had a soft spot for Sir Fred who give generously given of his time on radio in what we thought was an excellent program ‘Lawyer on Call’. One always got the impression that his willingness to call a spade a spade and to work with the lower class of society did not endear him to the establishment.