July 03, 2009

CCJ Judge on Trial

Hayton in hot water

Moves are being made to remove Justice David Hayton from the Caribbean Court of Justice, according to sources, following his comments in a Sunday Express interview, "Speed up Wheels of Justice".

On Tuesday, CCJ President Michael de la Bastide placed an advertisement in the Daily Express reprimanding the British law professor on what he considered to be "inappropriate and improper" public statements on "political and constitutional issues".

At a meeting that same day, de la Bastide met with Attorney General John Jeremie and the matter was discussed, and it was felt that Justice Hayton's comments had serious consequences for the CCJ, in particular how they would affect public confidence in the regional tribunal, say sources.

Justice Hayton's interview covered a wide range of issues, including the power of veto that Prime Minister Patrick Manning has in the selection of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Commissioner of Police, the Solicitor General and the Chief Parliamentary Counsel.

He also questioned Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday's resistance to replacing the Privy Council with the CCJ as this country's final Court of Appeal, having signed up for the CCJ's establishment and going so far as to outbid Barbados for the headquarters to be here,

"It seems to me, already, under the Constitution, the Prime Minister has perhaps too much influence, so I don't see the need quite so much for an executive presidency," Justice Hayton said in the interview.

He also noted that as far as the ruling People's National Movement (PNM) was concerned, Prime Minister Patrick Manning has absolute powers over who actually stands for a constituency in an election. "And that means the leader of the PNM has much more power than the parties in England. You don't have such power vested in the leader," he noted.

On Tuesday, Attorney General John Jeremie indicated that the interview had caused great displeasure: "[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."

Should Justice Hayton refuse to resign, his statements are enough grounds to begin proceedings to remove him, say sources. Indeed, de la Bastide hinted at the possibility in his advertisement when he stated that Justice Hayton broke a long-standing rule that judges should not comment on political and constitutional matters, except in judgments. And the CCJ places great importance in "maintaining a cordial relationship with both the Government and the Opposition in Trinidad and Tobago", the statement said.

De la Bastide, who is a former chief justice of Trinidad and Tobago, is currently in Guyana attending a Caricom summit and could not be reached for comment. However, CCJ protocol and information officer Michael Lilla said he had no knowledge of Justice Hayton having tendered his resignation.

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