September 30, 2009


BY PAUL HENRY Jamaica Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

BRITAIN'S Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer, QC, says the decision as to whether or not Jamaica should retain the London-based Privy Council as its final appellate court rests with its citizens and should not be influenced by external forces.

"My view is very simple and that is, that it's for Jamaica and the Jamaican people to decide which court they want to have as their final court of appeal," Starmer told the Observer Monday night during a reception in his honour at the British High Commission in Kingston.

"The Privy Council is an excellent court. I've been closely watching the Caribbean Court of Appeal; that's a developing and ever more confident court," added Starmer.

Starmer was responding to questions in relation to reports in the British media last week that Lord Nicholas Phillips, who is set to become the first president of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, has raised concerns about the amount of time the Privy Council spends on Caribbean legal issues.

He said the Caribbean and other Commonwealth countries needed to establish their own final court of appeal and questioned the need for some cases, including Jamaica's death-row appeals, to be brought to the Privy Council.

On the weekend, Jamaica's Court of Appeal President Seymour Panton, who has been an ardent advocate for Jamaica to sever ties with the Privy Council, agreed with the British judge, noting that Jamaica deserved the bashing.

Starmer, however, took a different approach when asked if he agreed with Lord Phillips' statements.

"...I would not want to influence the decision one way or the other," said Starmer.

"I'm sure if [Jamaicans] chose to retain the Privy Council that would be an excellent service for them. I'm equally confident that if they decide on the Caribbean Court of Justice that would provide the service that they need. For me, it's very much a question that Jamaicans need to decide...," he added.

Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne on Sunday reiterated that Government intended to put the issue to a referendum.

However, when pressed, Lightbourne said no timeline had been set for the referendum, given the cost associated with such a venture.

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