Andrew Pilgrim QC- one of the respected lawyers in Barbados- recently resorted to the use of muscular language and aggressive behaviour to demonstrated his frustration with a case presided over by Magistrate Graveney Bannister. To quote from the affidavit filed by Magistrate Graveney Bannister on the 7th May 2018, Pilgrim shouted as he was leaving the court, “Think a fucking gain”.
It has been reported that Pilgrim apologized to Bannister for the outburst. Clearly Pilgrim’s open dissent is symptomatic of a dysfunctional justice system in Barbados. If a QC can be so driven to resort to muscular language in open court then as they say- ‘Houston, we have a problem’. Was Alair Shepherd stripped of his QC status for mooning Justice Sonia Richards? Pilgrim should have no worries.
The blogmaster should also take the opportunity in this space to mention that Magistrate Bannister was in the news last week for suggesting – wait for it – citizens that videotape policemen should be prosecuted. In the words attributed to Pilgrim in Magistrate Bannister’s affidavit the blogmaster says- think a fucking gain!
See Magistrate Graveney Bannister ‘s Affidavit filed. We await the outcome.
“Prominent attorney Andrew Pilgrim has raised alarm about a piece of legislation, already approved in the House of Assembly, which removes the rights of accused persons to remain silent. According to Pilgrim, the Evidence (Amendment) Bill 2014, which is set to go before the Senate on Friday, was last year pushed through the House without proper debate and public consultation and he argued it was injustice” – Barbados Today 14 January, 2015
Just when I thought that this Government could do us nothing more to deflate the egos of the populace of this country, up it comes with a piece of skulduggery which takes us deeper into the Mariana Trench. Every man jack in Barbados must stand up and be counted on this one!
It is no use saying I’m a police officer, lawyer, bricklayer, or whatever trade or calling one deems fit to mention, because it would apply to every one of us. This is, according to Minister Steve Blackett, a “people-centred” Government. Please tell me where the centre is? Mr. Blackett probably means concentric circles with them at the centre of all of the others, and after them the deluge.
Justice Saunders of the CCJ opined recently that Barbados judges were not scheduling their time properly.
For some years now BU has been highlighting the issue of the almost terminal state of our justice system. We have been highlighting, among other things, the backlog of cases both before the High Court and the Court of Appeal, the complete inefficiency of the Registry with its loss of files and procrastination, the mess that is the Bar Association and the clear conflict between Bar Association enforced membership and the Constitution; but most importantly, we have been highlighting the quality of our judges, both at High Court and Appeal levels.
A very short while ago, attorneys-at-law from Barbados raised the issue of delays in both getting matters heard and in receiving the judgements on those matters with CCJ Justice Saunders at one open forum. Justice Saunders opined that it was because Barbados judges were not scheduling their time properly. Meanwhile, in another forum, CCJ President Sir Denis Byron advised that appeals to the CCJ from Barbados had risen by 350%.
Having read some of the CCJ decisions in right of Barbados, we have to say that Justice Saunders was being diplomatic, for these judgements do not censure delay alone, but the lack of quality of the judgements themselves, judgements that in any other jurisdiction would lead either to the judge being asked to resign or to his/her dismissal.
When Andrew Pilgrim took up the post of President of the Barbados Bar Association, BU was very optimistic that in tandem with newly appointed CJ Gibson, some efficiency would have been achieved in our court system. We were wrong. To compound the perception that the Bar is a moribund entity it has been three months since Barry Gale QC took the baton from Pilgrim and the public is none the wiser about progress made by the Bar during his tenure.
Several reasons are listed on the Barbados Bar Association website why it was established under the Barbados Bar Association Act of 1940. Of the 27 reasons given a few should be of interest to Barbadians if only because they are laudable or should that be laughable:
Sir Henry De B. Forde, K.A. Q.C. – Barbados’ best known counsel
In the last two instalments of Tales From The Courts, BU ventilated an aspect of land law that had the possible potential to cause problems for vendors and purchasers alike. This arose because of an Order given by Miss Kentish of the Barbados High Court. BU’s position evoked much argument from both sides of the issue.
Some well known counsel said that the Order was correct. Some, including it is reported, the a party to a sale and purchase and their counsel, held that the Order was a nullity and therefore refused to proceed with the purchase. It is not the intention of BU to go into the relative merits of this argument. We leave that to the lawyers to discuss among themselves.
What BU will do, however, is to fulfil its function, which is to serve the general Bajan public by pointing out the dilemma facing it. The fact that there are clearly two schools of legal thought within the legal fraternity on this issue of law, means that ultimately one is wrong and the other right. Therefore, it is clearly best for members of the general public, vendors and purchasers of land alike, to err on the side of caution. And it is clearly best for their counsel to be responsible enough to encourage them to do so.
BU is fully supportive of the Arts and our concern should not be seen as being against The Soap Opera Project. We wish the Caribbean Film Festival all the success. BU has been an advocate for this government to get more aggressive in its effort to support the cultural and creative sector. BU continues to monitor the passage of the Cultural Industries Bill and will not attempt to muddy the waters at this stage although we remain agitated at the agendas being played out.
Marston Gibson, Chief Justice (l) Andrew Pilgrim, President of Barbados Bar Association
In an email to Andrew Pilgrim, president of the Barbados Bar Association, Chief Justice Marston Gibson has slammed the BBA, thereby raising many points that BU has been promoting about the Justice System.
The Chief’s email to Mr Pilgrim is posted to the members section of the BBA website and requires that it be accessed by passwords available to BBA members only. However, BU has been able to obtain a copy and states that it posts this as a matter of public interest!
This comes at a time when BU understands that the Registrar has been told that she may not sit as a judge to replace judges on leave (in this case, Madam Justice Kentish) and that her job is to stay in the Registry and sort out the mess. Instead, Madam Justice Kentish has been replaced during her six month leave by the Chief Magistrate.
Here is what the Chief has had to say to Mr Pilgrim and the BBA.
Marston Gibson, Chief Justice of Barbados Designate
If there is one thing the government of Barbados must plead guilty, it is the procrastination and vacillation which has affected their ability to appoint a Chief Justice of Barbados. The denial given to Sir David which forced him into an early retirement would have signalled to the public the government had a plan to attack the many issues which are afflicting our Judicature.
If there is one attribute which recommends Barbados it is the fact our country is still regarded as an orderly society. The strength of our democracy, law and order; its political and social stability has become a symbiosis. At the epicentre of the administration of justice sits the Chief Justice. Sir David was sent hurrying on pre-retirement leave on the 21 Jan 2010, more that a year ago. Is it conceivable to think that any company wishing to be successful would want to have an entrenched appointee at the top? It has nothing to do with the vacuous and spurious excuses being offered to the effect Justice Sherman Moore is competent.
Besides the ugly and embarrassing situation which must be tarnishing the reputation and credibility of our court system has been the silence of those who should be most vociferous given the tardy appointment of a permanent Chief Justice. Recently appointed President of the Barbados Bar Association Andrew Pilgrim has been uncharacteristically silent. The Barbados Labour Party Opposition who registered disagreement when Sir David was refused the extension, also opposed the amendment of the Judicature of the Supreme Court Act, which many believed cleared the way for Marston Gibson to take up the post, has been passive on the issue. The most resounding silence has been the local media who although willing to do a public relations job on Marston Gibson, felt hat and all, has shown a reluctance to disseminate the bigger issues created by his non appointment.
Marston Gibson, Chief Justice of Barbados Designate
The appointment of Chief Justice (CJ) Marston Gibson has generated heated debate in some quarters. Today President of the Barbados Bar Association Andrew Pilgrim criticized the current system which which sees the Prime Minister appointing judges. It seems he was peeved about the reason which Gibson offered for accepting the appointment in the face of the public furore directed at his appointment. Gibson indicated it was a promise he made to late Prime Minister Thompson which he felt obligated to honour. Pilgrim’s view differs with his colleague Ralph Thorne who believes the quality of decisions by a Prime Minister will be judged by the electorate. Therefore a Prime Minister has a vested interest in appointing quality judges to the bench. It should be noted based on a little research, all the sitting judges were appointed by Prime Minister Owen Arthur.
In the weekend news just passed there was the obligatory public relations spread which sought to give the public an insight into what to expect from the incoming CJ. BU would have asked the harder questions but such is the lay of the land. In the Public Relations job facilitated by Tony Best of the Nation Gibson articulated changes he plans to implement when he assumes office. By the way did BU miss it or was the position officially announced by government? His interview generated mild comment in some quarters while others suggested CJ Gibson has not stated anything that has not already made it into the public domain and in some instances are in the process of being implemented.
The following is an extract from Sir David Simmon’s speech at the opening of the Special Sitting of the Supreme Court to mark the commencement of the legal year 2009-2010 at the new Judicial Building. One of the advantages the incoming CJ will have is that he will be under the public microscope like no other CJ who preceded him. He will therefore have to be very wary when he makes public statements. A read of Sir David’s speech touches many of the suggestions proffered by Gibson in the weekend press, you decide.
BU read the the views expressed by outgoing President of the BarbadosBar Association (BBA) Leslie Haynes QC which were pressed recently by a local newspaper and was left to ask the question – how did he [Haynes] advance the BBA in the last year? Quoting the article, Haynes, who did not seek re-election at yesterday’s annual general meeting, also called on Government to put a new Land Title Act on the statute books. BU’s expectation at Haynes’ appointment as President of BBA that he would have blazed a legacy of merit was never pitched very high anyway.
Haynes’ biggest contribution as President of the BBA would have been his utterance which condemned the appointment of incoming Chief Justice Marston Gibson. Perhaps it is one he will regret. BU’s position on the appointment of Gibson is a matter of record. His selection from outside the inner ring recommends him most, the fact that he is an eminently qualified Barbadian is beyond dispute.
In the same way our expectation of Haynes was anchored very low we hold the opposite view for his replacement based on information which comes from a reliable source. The election of Andrew Pilgrim as President of the BBA signals that there are some in the legal community who yearn for a new dispensation.