October 27, 2009

No support for Caribbean Court from newly elected Bar Association president

Dominica, CMC

The newly elected President of the Dominica Bar Association (DBA) Levi A. Peter says he is not convinced that the Caribbean is ready for its own final court of appeal.

The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) was established in 2001 to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court of appeal. It also functions as an international tribunal hearing disputes arising from the interpretation and application of the Revised Treaty under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

But while most CARICOM countries are signatories to the court’s original jurisdiction, only Barbados and Guyana are members of its appellate jurisdiction.

Peter, who was elected last week, said that while he understands the benefit of the CCJ he is not persuaded of its effectiveness.

“I can see the arguments both sides, the primary argument that I hear in favour of the CCJ is that with independence one has responsibility for all aspects of one’s governance.

“I also take the view though, that one has to be able and prepared. I am not yet persuaded that we are ready in the Caribbean, that’s my position,” Peter said, adding “maybe somebody or some group of people will be able to persuade me but until that time the jury’s out, as far as I’m concerned”.

Last month, prominent British jurist, Lord Phillips, indirectly endorsed the CCJ when he told the Financial Times newspaper that he and his senior justices spend a ““disproportionate” amount of time hearing legal appeals from independent countries from the Caribbean and other Commonwealth countries to the Privy Council in London.

“It is a huge amount of time. I personally would like to see it reduced,” said Lord Phillips, the President of the British Supreme Court.

He questioned whether some Privy Council cases - which have ranged from Jamaican death row appeals to fights over press freedom in Bermuda - needed to be heard by a panel of five of Britain’s most senior judges.

According to him, “in an ideal world” the former Commonwealth countries would stop using the Privy Council and instead set up their own final courts of appeal.

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