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Only two judges to deal with criminal, civil matters

Only two judges to deal with criminal, civil matters

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Resident High Court judge Frederick Bruce-Lyle says that it is unfair that this country’s judiciary is only outfitted with two judges to deal with both criminal and civil matters, while other jurisdictions have more.{{more}}

Speaking at the close of the High Court criminal assizes on Tuesday, the outspoken judge stated that there are smaller jurisdictions that are operating with more than two judges.

“There are smaller jurisdictions like Antigua that has four, Grenada has three, St Lucia has three and we are the only big jurisdiction that has two. That is unfair. We need four permanent judges. Two for civil and two for criminal,” Bruce-Lyle stressed.

He further added that he has made it clear to the relevant authorities that one person alone can’t preside over the criminal list.

At the close of the assizes, some five matters were disposed of out of more than 60, owing to various factors.

“There has to be two judges sitting simultaneously. None of the other islands has a Serious Offences Court that deals strictly with Preliminary Inquiry and other serious offences,” the judge added.

According to Bruce-Lyle, while they are able to hear some of the cases during the assizes, the Serious Offences Court continues to churn out committals by the day.

“By the time we finish 10 cases, we have 15 more coming in. So, that list will never go down, unless we have two judges sitting simultaneously, continuously,” stated the judge.

He also disclosed that some civil matters are now being placed for hearing in 2018.

“This tells you what is happening. We are soon going to be overwhelmed and very soon the whole judicial justice system would break down. I hope they respond quickly… It is becoming humanly impossible for one judge to do criminal and one judge to do civil,” the judge stated.

Bruce-Lyle also added that the court experienced success when retired Jamaican Supreme Court judge Wesley James took up duties in early 2012 to help run simultaneous sittings of the assizes to decrease the number of cases before the court.

“We were able to whittle down the backlog of cases tremendously to a manageable level. We were making progress,” he said.

Appointments of judges are done by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, of which Bruce-Lyle is a member. However, the assignments and number of judges to be assigned to a jurisdiction is done by the Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.

Head of the Bar Association Rene Baptiste also indicated that she had made representation to the requisite authorities of the need for St Vincent and the Grenadines to have three High Court judges.

Bruce-Lyle took up duties as a resident High Court judge in 2003. Before coming to St Vincent and the Grenadines, he served as High Court judge in St Kitts and Nevis from September 2000.

He has also served in other jurisdictions, including: Belize and Tortola and was even a senior magistrate here in St Vincent and the Grenadines from 1989 to 1993.

Bruce-Lyle, who has accumulated some 249 days leave, will proceed on vacation from May 2 to December 23.

In the interim, a temporary judge will be assigned at the next assizes, from early May to July 31st.

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