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Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), Hugh Rawlins, has called on judicial officers to deliver judgements in a timely manner.{{more}}

Addressing members of the Bar at the official start of the 2011/2012 law term, Rawlins said while he is appreciative of the work of the vast majority of judicial officers, he is calling on those who are inconsistent to fall in line.

The Chief Justice’s remarks came during a live simulcast to members of the ECSC from Antigua on Tuesday, September 20.

Rawlins said unless there are extenuating circumstances, long delays cannot be accepted.

He stated that it is well known that judges of the East Caribbean High Court and Court of Appeal are called upon to shoulder a burden which judges in no other countries bear.

“Every day we see evidence of spiraling litigation in our courts. Through it all, the judges in the courts have carried the burden in adverse circumstances…,” he noted. He added that the vast majority of our judges still manage to remain current in the delivery of judgments, even through illness, deprivation of family and social life.

The Chief Justice, however, indicated that there are some instances where judgments are inordinately delayed.

“It is not acceptable that judgments should be inordinately delayed in our court system…,” he stressed. Rawlins stated that the Privy Council has underscored that point in various cases. He said the Caribbean Court of Justice says that a judgment should be delivered in certain timeframe, barring extenuating circumstances. He said the upper limit that was stated by the Caribbean Court of Justice was six months.

Over the years, inordinate delays by a few judicial officers have caused great difficulties to parties in cases, Rawlins said. He gave the example of persons who are unable to pursue an appeal, because Magistrates have not produced reasons for their decisions.

“This is all unacceptable… while I put on record my appreciation for the work of the vast majority of judges for their consistency, in this, their labour of love, it is incumbent upon me to call on those who are inconsistent to follow …,” Rawlins added.

The Chief Justice also said he is hopeful for a successful 2011/2012 law term, despite highlighting some of the challenges that the court has to overcome.

His address, which was broadcast at the High Court in Kingstown, followed a church service held at the Kingstown Methodist Church. After the church service, lawyers, as well as members of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force and cub scouts, converged in the yard of the High Court, where the inspection of the Guards was done by resident High Court judge Frederick Bruce-Lyle.

Rawlins also noted a concern with what seems to be a growing failure by members of the Bar to follow the rules and guidelines for filing and serving skeleton arguments and written submissions.

Rawlins said in many countries the listing of questionnaires, which is an essential tool for efficient case management, has fallen into disuse. “I hereby call for a return to the effective use of listing of questionnaires…”

Other addresses on the day came from President of the Local Bar Association Dr Linton Lewis, who beseeched lawyers to work together to raise the standard of the local Bar. He said not only does he want camraderie among the lawyers, but also a very good professional working relationship. He says it is only in that way would they have a very good legal system here in SVG.

Other brief addresses came from other members of the local bar, including, president of the Human Rights Association Nicole Sylvester, Stanley John, Bertram Commissiong QC, Director of Public Prosecutions Colin Williams, and Parnel Campbell Q.C., who brought to the court’s attention that occasions such as the opening of the law term have become “long and boring” due to the long speeches that are heard every year.

“We are serious people to whom time is precious…We have come here primarily to hear what the Chief Justice had to say. All the rest is secondary…,” Campbell said.

It is his hope, however, that with his remarks, changes would be made. (KW)