President of the Caribbean Court of Justice Michael de la Bastide issued a statement yesterday reprimanding one of his own judges.
The former chief justice of Trinidad and Tobago placed an advertisement in the Express in which he chastised CCJ Judge David Hayton for the comments he made in an article, "Speed up wheels of justice", published in the last issue of the Sunday Express.
Hayton, the only non-Caribbean judge on the CCJ, "was arguably the leading authority in the UK and Europe on the law of trusts" before he was appointed to the regional tribunal in 2005, according to the CCJ's own website.
In his statement about Hayton's "inappropriate and improper" comments about political and constitutional issues, de la Bastide stated: "...I wish to make it absolutely clear that this Court espouses the well established and long standing rule that judges do not publicly comment or express views on political issues or personalities or on the merits and demerits of constitutional provisions except to the extent that they find it appropriate or necessary to do so in judgments they deliver."
De la Bastide, who is also chairman of the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission, which selected Hayton for the post, continued: "It is particularly important that this rule be respected by judges in relation to the host country in which their Seat is located. In so far as Hayton's comments breach this rule, they were inappropriate and improper, and I have communicated this to Justice Hayton."
Approached yesterday outside the Immigration Department on Frederick Street, de La Bastide, who was accompanied by the CCJ's protocol and information officer Dr Michael Lilla, joked: "Oh, you're the person who led my judge astray."
Asked if Hayton would be fired, de la Bastide responded: "I don't think so." However, on the matter of disciplining the former professor of law at King's College in London, de la Bastide nodded in agreement that Hayton had been severely reprimanded and replied, "Yes, as you saw today", and hurried into a waiting vehicle.
When the Express contacted the CCJ Office yesterday, Hayton's secretary said he was in a meeting. Another judge, Jacob Wit, declined to comment. His secretary relayed his message: "He says the (de La Bastide's) statement speaks for itself."
Attorney General John Jeremie said: "[Justice Hayton] has certainly stepped beyond the boundaries of ordinary judicial criticism and in a forum which is not appropriate. I know that as we speak that efforts are being made to find a resolution to that issue and I would prefer to say no more on that for the time being."
Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday, whose opposition to the acceptance of the CCJ as T&T's final Court of Appeal was one of the issues addressed by Justice Hayton, said: "I am a little frightened to appear before him now."
On why he had apparently changed his mind about replacing the Privy Council with the CCJ after out-bidding Barbados to have the CCJ's headquarters here when he was prime minister, Panday responded: "I didn't change my mind. After we had signed on, I made it absolutely clear that our replacing the Privy Council with the CCJ was dependent on the wishes of the people. I still hold to that. If the prime minister holds a referendum and the people accept it, I will certainly go along with it."