September 28, 2009


Appeal Court president says Jamaica deserves 'boof' for sticking with Privy Council

BY Paul Henry Observer staff reporter

Monday, September 28, 2009

Court of Appeal President Justice Seymour Panton on Friday sided strongly with his counterpart in England, Lord Nicholas Phillips, in his reported broadside against Jamaica and other Commonwealth countries over their dependence on the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the final appellate court.

Panton, who has been a staunch advocate of Jamaica cutting ties with the Privy Council, said the country deserved to be "boofed", while again stating his position on the matter.

Panton made the remark as he was about to hand down judgement against GraceKennedy, which had been seeking leave to appeal a point in its lawsuit with Paymaster Jamaica Ltd.

At least one attorney, Lord Anthony Gifford, rose to support Panton.

During a frank interview with the Observer following Friday's adjournment, Panton agreed that Jamaica has long overstayed its welcome with the Privy Council.

He did not mince words in describing opponents, some being lawyers, of a move away from the Privy Council.
"The only people who are interested in keeping the Privy Council are the very wealthy, murderers, and the ones with colonial mentality," said Panton.

"It's just backward thinking, man, backward thinking. It's high time we realise that we are independent," Panton added.
He also expressed confidence in the ability of the judges of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), noting that they are far more experienced than some Privy Council judges.

The appellate court judge also knocked the fact that appellants needed to secure visas to plead their cases in England.

According to reports in the British media last week, Lord Nicholas Phillips, who will become the first president of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom when it comes into being in October, said Caribbean countries and other Commonwealth nations 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.

Lord Nicholas Phillips, according to the Financial Times, has said that the Law Lords on the Privy Council were spending a "disproportionate" amount of time on cases from former colonies, mostly in the Caribbean.

Reacting to the British judge's comments, AJ Nicholson, justice minister in the People's National Party administration that was voted out of office in 2007, called on the Government to table the required legislation making the Caribbean Court of Justice the country's final court of appeal instead of the Privy Council.

Although the CCJ was inaugurated in April 2005, Barbados and Guyana are the only two countries that have formally adopted it as their highest appellate court. Other countries in the Caribbean are struggling to overcome legal and political obstacles to shedding their dependence on the Privy Council.

For instance, in February 2005, the Privy Council, on a case mounted by the then Opposition Jamaica Labour Party and civil society groups, ruled as unconstitutional, the route taken by the Jamaican Government to establish the CCJ as its final court.

The law lords held that while the Government could end appeals to the UK-based court by a simple parliamentary majority, it required special procedures to entrench the CCJ as a court superior to the Jamaica Court of Appeal.

The implication is that establishment of the CCJ as Jamaica's final court will require either a two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament and/or the winning vote in a referendum.

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