‘I’d be disappointed if the CCJ is not made SVG’s final court’ – Justice Saunders
Vincentian-born President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Justice Adrian Saunders, says he will be disappointed if the CCJ is not the country’s final appellate court by the end of his Presidency.
In an interview last Wednesday, the judge answered that while he would not cite such an omission as a ‘betrayal’, as proponent of the CCJ, Queen’s Counsel Parnel Campbell had opined, he would be “naturally disappointed”.
“Even if I were not the President, there would still be excellent reasons, and there are good reasons for St Vincent and the Grenadines to sign on to the court,” Saunders continued.
Since the President assumed the post in July this year, the topic of the CCJ is now under the spotlight, discussions being sparked by the speeches given by legal minds at the special sitting marking Saunders’ elevation.
“Now that the court is in the people’s consciousness more than ever, it’s a big talking point, I think that this is an ideal time for the representatives in Parliament to take that step,” the President stated, noting that it would take two thirds of Parliament to make the decision to alter the Constitution and allow SVG to sign onto the court as the final appellate court.
“Yes, I will be disappointed if that doesn’t happen, but I thought that it should have happened even before my appointment as President,” he stated.
Saunders also spoke to the reasons that, not only SVG, but the entirety of the Caribbean, as a unit, would be better off with the CCJ as their final court.
“I think it will have the effect of, first of all, allowing for the jurisprudence, the interpretation and the application of the laws that we make in the region, to be done by a court predominantly of Caribbean people, and in a way that is in sync with our values, our morals, our dreams,” he began.
He explained that the CCJ would be able to address some of the inefficiencies that cause dissatisfaction in the legal process.
The President explained the work the court is already doing in the countries which send them their appeals.
“In Guyana, for example, we have played a major role in helping them to introduce new procedural rules that will govern the way in which civil cases are processed through the system. It helps to reduce delay.”
While the court does some work in the countries that don’t send their appeals to them, Saunders says that if the countries were to join, it would allow that work to be ‘intensified’.
In those countries that do not have final appeals going to the court, it is not assured that best practices adopted by the CCJ would be implemented at that level, Saunders says.
“Right now there is a possibility of a disconnect because the judges of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council are not that involved in the local justice system,” Saunders stated.
He continued, “if you have rules that you have to create, that you think are best suited for the Caribbean, a court that isn’t involved in the crafting of those rules, and therefore doesn’t have the same first hand awareness of the reason for the rules, there is always a risk that they can give decisions which are not in sync with the philosophy behind those rules.”
However, one of the principal reasons why the President believes that the region should have the CCJ as the final court is, “I think that ultimately … all of the courts of the region should come to the CCJ, because it is a court that is more accessible. It allows for a greater range of persons to access it.”
He ended, “It’s a matter of self-worth. Each civilization deserves their own court, and we too in the region deserve a court of our own.”