The BU family will be interested in the outstanding decisions of the High Court for 2016 recorded on the attachment. Of interest is the column labelled ”LAST HEARD”. If readers have formed the conclusion that the BU household is unforgiving in our criticism of Chief Justice Marston Gibson, please go to the top of the class. BU trumpeted the arrival of Gibson – the man selected from outside the inner circle – to bring needed change, several years later the judiciary appears to be in the same state he found it, even worse.
Barbados Today has carried a report – Court Twist – of a recent court proceedings in the matter of Vernon Olivier Smith v the Attorney General and Sir Marston Gibson. This report includes the comments of Sir Henry Forde QC. The spectre of secret court hearings on matters of national interest as attempted by Marston Gibson are, frankly, terrifying.
In a statement from Trinidad extracts which are published in the Nation and Barbados Today, the Chief Justice has said:
“I want to find out what is the Bar’s plan to tackle the growing instances of attorney dishonesty. The twitter in Barbados is that there are several attorneys who are in the same position as the attorney whose case is presently pending before the Court of Appeal,” he said.” [BU’s EMPHASIS]
BU stands to be corrected, but does the CJ not chair the panel of the Court of Appeal before whom this case, recently highlighted by BU has commenced and been adjourned?
If this is indeed the case, for the Chief Justice Gibson (CJ) to allude to it publicly in any way, far less in a press release/statement, is highly improper if he is sitting on the hearing. It is highly improper for any judge to allude in public to a case on which he is sitting – such statements can and must only come from the Bench. And the CJ, not only was not on the Bench, but out of jurisdiction. However, for the CJ, who is head of the Court of Appeal, to make such a statement, especially to the Press, is not only gross misconduct, but brings the courts into disrepute. That is grounds for dismissal from office.
Whether we like it or not the constitution of Barbados recognizes the Queen of England as the head of state of Barbados. We practice the Westminster system of government and until we pluck the will from somewhere to believe in an indigenous way, Queen Elizabeth II through her agent the Governor General will continue to play that vital role as head of state.
One of the perks of the system which is eagerly looked forward to by members of the legal fraternity – for the status it confers – is to attain the designation of Queen’s Counsel (QC). BU understands the latest group of QCs who were informed four weeks ago have been delayed in their celebration because the list cannot be published until the Chief Justice (CJ) issues the warrants. According to our source, the list was sent to him (CJ) four weeks ago. It is customary for the warrants to be issued as soon as the GG has written the QCs. There is a little buzz in the fraternity caused by the delay which cannot be explained.
Out of curiosity, and for no other reason, BU would like to know why the CJ is sitting on the warrants? It cannot be that he is very busy because his last sighting on the cocktail circuit was carried in today’s press.
Governor Delisle Worrell (l) CJ Marston Gibson (r)
Anybody remotely acquainted with Dr. Delisle Worrell, the distinguished governor of our central bank, would not be surprised that he is now being judged on such unimportant matters as to how he dresses and what he parades in during the Festival of Flesh that was once Crop Over.
First, let me state without apology, that both Dr. Worrell and our new Chief Justice Mr. Marston Gibson, represent a breath of fresh air blowing through the corridors of snobbery and intellectual arrogance, that passes as brilliance in our country. It is obvious, that neither of these two obviously brilliant minds have caught the eye of those intellectual frauds that masquerade about here as if this country is their exclusive academic playground. Lord Nelson will turn into Bussa ,and vice versa, before the likes of an Owen Arthur or his willing side kick, Clyde Mascoll succeeds in turning Dr .Worrell into” an economist of Lilliputian status”. Anybody, who has taken five minutes to research Dr. Worrell’s work, will know that neither of these two gentlemen is held in the esteem that comes close to the good Governor’s standing in intellectual circles. It simply does not merit any serious discussion.
We have long held Bishops, Chief Justices and Governors of the central bank in such high regard, that we sometimes forget that they are accountable to the people. And that in the case of Governors of Central Banks and Chief Justices, we are the ones who pay them, and pay them very well, taking into consideration our meagre resources. The same can be said of Commissioners of Police and other powerful professionals. By all means we must respect the office but don’t allow them to believe and act as if they should not or cannot be touched.
… we have a lot of blogs [BU] on the subject, but don’t you think that two months has been enough time for the CJ to have clearly thrown down some kind of gauntlet?
…like a maximum time for a judgement to be completed or else….
…like an analysis of outstanding judgements and serious actions taken against the worse defaulters. When can we expect some kind of action? In 11 years or so…? – Bush Tea
Barbadians who expect the job of incoming CJ to be a breeze obviously have no appreciation for the gargantuan task which confronts the gentleman. To those who expected significant changes or announcements after two months is like turning water into wine. The Barbados Judiciary has been decaying for for several years despite plaudits and conferral of knighthoods. The yardstick to measure the efficiency of Barbados Courts must be the extent to which justice is denied because it was delayed. Palatial judicial buildings, wig clad QCs, smooth talking Attorney Generals, comparison to other jurisdictions mean nothing unless matters are processed efficiently and justice is seemed to be done.
If the task of the CJ was one hindered by the lack of resources, financial or human, Barbadians would have cause to be optimistic. The gargantuan task becomes vivid now that the CJ has had time to appreciate that key personnel in the judiciary and support government departments lack the know how to administer the system efficiently.
Here are a few examples to assist with outlining the challenge which the CJ faces:
Homosexuality has become a hot button issue in Barbados like many countries around the world. It has morphed to a civil rights issue. Has anyone noticed the alacrity with which some of Barbados’ prominent citizens rally behind this cause?
On the other hand there is a group of people in Barbados who have been marginalized and stigmatized more than any other. If you are known to be afflicted with a mental illness the average Barbadian will shun you like a leper. If you want to live a ‘normal’ life do not visit that Black Rock facility.
While all the focus is on the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) goings on at the Psychiatric Hospital in Black Rock has been slipping under the radar. This current state of affairs reflects accurately the importance Barbadians and officials alike view the importance of mental care. Hopefully the day will come soon when the opinion of the psychologist will be given the same weight as the medical doctor.
Another feature of mental care in Barbados is the way patients are treated at the Black Rock institution. BU is aware of mentally ill patients referred to the Psychiatric Hospital by the Courts who have had to endure the most inhumane treatment. In some cases the treatment meted out can be compared to what a person remanded to Dodds would expect; being made to strip to the birthday suit and not to forget the obligatory ‘injections’. Anyone can suffer from a mental disorder given the stressful environment which has enveloped all of our lifes.
Marston Gibson became Chief Justice of Barbados under some very questionable circumstances but, nonetheless, he is Chief Justice and it would appear that there is lots of goodwill out there for him to succeed in bringing some order to the chaotic judicial system. It would appear that he is seeking to jettison that goodwill before he gets started. Rather than get on with the job, he is all over the place making speeches more like he is seeking celebrity or going after the popular vote. From where I stand I see him as long on talk but short on action. In my opinion all these speeches might appeal to those that are easily impressed but they are making him look less and less as chief justice material.
In one of these speeches he addressed the issue of praedial larceny suggesting or declaring that the sentences for that offence were too light, and I think that rightly so all Barbadians, except the thieves themselves, would agree. However, as Chief Justice, I don’t think that it is his place to be making such declarations. My question now would be: what would happen if the Director of Public Prosecutions were to appeal one of those light sentences? To my mind the Chief Justice could not be part of the panel to hear the appeal since he has already indicated how he would decide matter. That would give the crook an arguable ground for appeal if his sentence were to be increased. I believe that in those circumstances, to appear fair the CJ would have to recuse himself from any such appeal.
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: