November 04, 2009

Statement by Dr Francis Alexis QC

Source:Caribbean Agency for Media Services -

Answering questions in the UK Parliament on the system of appeals to the Privy Council (“PC”) and on the Caribbean Court of Justice (“CCJ”), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the UK Ministry of Justice, Lord Bach, a Minister, last 26th October said: “We certainly have no reasons to discourage the Caribbean Court of Justice – indeed, we have reasons to encourage it”. This encouragement of the CCJ by the UK Government is most welcome, says Dr Francis Alexis QC.

The exchanges in the UK Parliament, the House of Lords, on the CCJ and the PC took place in light of what was said last September by the head of the PC, Lord Phillips, when he expressed concerns that disproportionate time and resources of the new UK Supreme Court (“UKSC”) should not be spent on PC cases.

Lord Phillips indicated he was considering taking pressure off the UKSC by drafting in English Court of Appeal judges to help out. If this means putting those judges on the PC, this, Alexis says, would violate the settled convention that PC judges have always been UK Law Lords and distinguished other Commonwealth heads of judiciaries. Putting lower level judges on the PC, even unquestionably competent English Court of Appeal judges, would, Alexis contends, amount to the UK calling on the Caribbean to leave the PC.

The Minister said the question which judges are to sit on PC cases is a matter entirely for Lord Phillips and that the UK Government has no plans to modify the system of PC appeals. But, Alexis argues, putting English Court of Appeal judges on the PC would be so fundamentally changing the composition of the PC as, in effect, virtually to modify the system of PC appeals.

Lord Phillips would prefer Caribbean countries to have their own final appellate court replace the PC. Comparably, Dr. Alexis notes, the UK Minister, Lord Bach, told Parliament that the UK Government encourages the CCJ, even though, the Minister added, it is absolutely a matter for Caribbean countries to opt between the CCJ and the PC.

Specifically by encouraging the CCJ, and also by mentioning the idea of putting English Court of Appeal judges on the PC, the UK, by both the Government and the Judiciary, is diplomatically calling on the Caribbean to replace the PC with the CCJ, buttressing other more compelling arguments for doing this. So says Dr. Alexis.

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