June 17, 2008

Independence and Accountability

Caribbean Chief Justices underscore independence, accountability
Monday, June 16 2008 @ 05:00 PM

Source: Breaking News ( Trinidad and Tobago)

The 9th Meeting of the Caribbean Heads of Judiciary, June 5-6, 2008 today dispatched the following communiqué to the media.
The opening ceremony took place in the Regency Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Trinidad, on the morning of June 5, 2008, with a keynote address from the Honorable Chief Justice and President of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, Mr. Justice Pius Langa on the topic, The Judiciary: Maintaining Trust and Confidence.
The topic of Mr. Justice Langa’s address was also the theme agreed upon for the Ninth Meeting of the Heads. Among those attending the opening ceremony were: His Excellency the Acting President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Danny Montano; the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Trinidad and Tobago, the Honorable Barry Sinanan; former President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. A.N.R. Robinson; former Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Satnarine Sharma, Judges of the Supreme Court of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean Court of Justice, other Judicial Officers, members of the diplomatic corps; senior State officials, and representatives of the private sector and other distinguished guests.The ceremony was also witnessed and covered by a wide cross section of the Trinidad and Tobago media, and disseminated live to the national community by television.
The Agenda for the Conference was disposed of in three plenary sessions over the two scheduled days, including a working lunch hosted by The Honorable the Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Justice Ivor Archie.
Agenda items included the following:
• Matters arising out of the 8th Annual Conference Judicial Independence and Administration including presentations by Court Consultant, Mr. Robert Hann, and Court Executive Administrator of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Mrs. Christie-Ann- Morris-Alleyne on the topic: Context and issues of Court Administration; Alternative Models of Court Administration and recommendations for the way forward.
• Publication of the Commonwealth Caribbean Civil Court Practice Text;
• Update on Conference of Judicial Officers;
Update on Caribbean Court of Justice Trust;
• Discipline and Accountability of Judges, (including a presentation by the President of the Caribbean Court of Justice, the Right Honorable Michael de la Bastide).
Heads devoted much of their attention to discussion of the principles of judicial independence and accountability.
Heads noted that the principle of judicial independence in the 21st Century embodies much more than non-interference in the adjudicative function. It also includes the provision of adequate financial and administrative resources placed under the control of the Judiciary to facilitate proper discharge of judicial responsibilities.
Heads recognized that in this region and internationally, the expanded boundaries of judicial independence now involved the management by Judges of many of the processes necessary for the effective and efficient delivery of justice.Heads reaffirmed their commitment to impartiality in the exercise of the judicial function and stressed that members of civil society must at all times be able to perceive the Judiciary as impartial and independent of the legislative and executive branches of government.
Heads agreed also that judicial independence and judicial accountability must co-exist, and the Judiciary has an inescapable duty to account to the public for the performance of its functions. Judiciaries are obligated, not only to hold themselves responsible for their own conduct and performance, but must also do so in a manner that is fully transparent.
Heads accepted that in order to maintain confidence in the administration of justice, the Judiciary is under an obligation to inform the public about its work and function.Heads agreed that Judges’ allowances and salaries should be fixed by independent Salaries Review Commissions.
Heads also agreed to make representation to Regional Governments to ensure that all Judges and other Judicial Officers, including Magistrates, are provided with adequate security in recognition of the risk inherent in the performance of their duties.Heads noted that Judiciaries were taking positive steps to implement programmes of continuing judicial education and training. They regarded this as being essential for enhancing the performance of Judges and Judicial Officers.
Heads urged that the planning and financing of such training should be under the control of the Judiciary in keeping with the Latimer House Principles, agreed to by the Commonwealth Heads of Government. Heads further noted that prior approval of the Executive ought not to be required for Judges and Judicial Officers to participate locally and abroad in continuing education and training.
The Conference agreed as follows:
• Any disciplinary process for Judges should be insulated from political interference from inception to conclusion
• Procedures should be established for receiving and dealing appropriately with complaints against Judges, Magistrates and other persons performing a judicial function. The public should be informed of the prescribed procedures.
• Appropriate mechanisms should be put in place to deal with judicial behaviour that falls short of the kind of misconduct that would justify removal from office.
• Appropriate standards of ethical conduct for Judicial Officers should be adopted by all Judiciaries of the Caribbean and such guidelines should be published and made available to all members of the Judiciary and to members of the public.
On matters pertaining to Judicial Independence as it relates to administration, alternative models and the way forward, the Conference agreed as follows:
• That Judiciaries establish properly resourced offices of Court Administration, under the direct control of the Judiciary, with responsibility for all matters relevant to court administration.
Matters to be under the direction of Court Administration should include:
a) Finance and budgeting,
b) Human Resource Management (recruitment, training, terms and conditions, and discipline)
c) Executives should work towards providing the minimum percentage of the national budget for annual allocation to Judiciaries that is consistent with international benchmarks.In accordance with decisions at the Eight Annual Meeting of Caribbean Heads of Judiciary, the Constitution has been amended so as to provide for the President of the Caribbean Court of Justice to be a member of the Conference.
The Honorable Chief Justice of Belize, Mr. Justice Conteh, has agreed to represent the Conference as a member of the Board of the CCJ Trust for one more year.The Heads also agreed that a meeting of Judicial Officers of the Region be held in late June or early July 2009.Chairmanship of the next Conference is expected to be held by the Chancellor and Head of Judiciary of Guyana

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