Published: Friday | September 25, 2009
Statements attributed to a high-profile judge in the United Kingdom (UK) have given the parliamentary Opposition renewed fillip to push for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to be used as Jamaica's final appellate court instead of the London-based Privy Council.
The Opposition is calling on the Government to table the required legistion in Parliament to revive the process of delinking from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and to have the CCJ as our final court of appeal," former Justice Minister A.J. Nicholson said at a press conference yesterday.
Nicholson was spurred by comments made by the soon-to-be president of the Supreme Court in the UK, Lord Nicholas Phillips.
Establish own court
The British judge has reportedly called on Caribbean countries to establish their own final court of appeal and questioned whether some Privy Council cases, including Jamaica's death-row appeals, needed to be heard by a panel of five of Britain's most senior judges, who have to spend disproportionate time on these matters.
The report out of the London media said many independent observers, presumably British taxpayers, say the privilege of continued pro bono (free) use of the appellate body is both an ideological stain and a financial drain on the newly created Supreme Court.
Declaring that he shares in the shame of the nation overstaying its welcome in the Privy Council, Nicholson characterised his call as urgent and regrettable, but stressed that this was no time for recriminations.
"It is unflattering for us as a people of an independent country to have placed ourselves in a situation to be told in quite measured but certainly unambiguous terms that surely the time has come for the imperial apron strings to be finally cut," Nicholson declared.
Nicholson was justice minister and attorney general in the P.J. Patterson administration which had spearheaded the thrust for the establishment of the CCJ as the country's final court of appeal.
Ironically, the then PNP administration was thwarted in its efforts by a ruling from the Privy Council.
He said in light of this week's reports in the UK media, the Government could no longer hold fast to the requirement that an indicative referendum be held to determine whether Jamaica should retain the Privy Council as its final court of appeal.
Nicholson, who had always been a passionate advocate for a regional appellate body, made an impassioned appeal to the Bruce Golding administration to set the machinery in motion to embark on the judicial course to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ. "I feel the shame," he declared yesterday.