Only persons of certain means can afford Privy Council – CCJ head
Fear is a factor fuelling arguments that support the retention of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) as this country’s final court of appeal.
Justice Adrian Saunders, the president of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) shared this view on Wednesday while speaking at a Town Hall meeting at Frenches House.
Saunders’ elevation to presidency in July has rekindled discussions related to St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) leaving the JCPC and signing on to the CCJ in its appellate jurisdiction.
“In my view, acceding to the CCJ ought to be a normal, natural progression. In life, some people don’t like change, some people can’t handle change and so they seek to retard progress,” he said.
He said that when examined, most of the arguments he has heard of why the country should stay with the Privy Council are rooted in fear of the unknown and fear of change.
And the president added that this is not enough to allow being kept back.
“What we need to do to overcome that fear is to rationally look at the facts, to look at objective data, to look at reality as it is,” Saunders said.
He said that as it is now, only people of certain means can afford to have their cases appealed at the Privy Council, which is located in England.
Saunders added that despite the belief that the Privy Council is free in some aspects, studies show that persons need at least US$65,000 to have a matter processed at the British court.
“If you don’t have the means to go to the Privy Council and you are arguing, ‘we should retain the Privy Council, retain the Privy Council’ then it boggles the mind. You can’t access it anyhow so why are you clinging on to it if you can’t access it?” he said.
Conversely, Saunders said that at the CCJ, justice is afforded to all persons who wish to access the court.
The president posited that apex courts were meant to operate in a manner where they support and assist the administration of the courts below.
And he said that this is a benefit of having the CCJ as the country’s final court of appeal as the CCJ hosts judicial education programmes to improve the quality of judges among other things.
“It’s a simple decision. This is nothing fancy. This is about social equality. Is this something that we believe in or something that we wish to bring up all sorts of spurious excuses in order to defend inequality. That is the equation as far as I’m concerned,” Saunders said.
In his presentation at Wednesday’s meeting, Saunders gave an overview of the work of the court, its appellate and original jurisdiction and noted judgments and their impact.
The president also discussed the technology in the court and benefits and opportunities available for countries that sign on to the court in both its jurisdictions.
Since its establishment in 2005, only four countries have made the CCJ its final appellate court. These countries are Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica.