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High time to break free


by R. Andrew Cummings 29.FEB.08

A big and important part of our Laws in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has been made by Judges over the centuries. This is called the “Common Law”. Law made by our Parliament is referred to as Statute Law. The Common Law or Judge Made Law is supposed to be “a living system of law reflecting new ideas and adjusting to new events so as to provide citizens of a country with a system of practical justice relevant to the time in which they live.”{{more}} Indeed, if it were not so the Common Law would become static and out of touch with the people it is intended to serve.

Which Judges make our Common Law?

Because our highest Court in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is the British Privy Council, it is essentially the Judges who sit in that Court who have the final say in moulding our Common Law. All lower Courts including our Court of Appeal and High Court are bound by their decisions. Can these Privy Council Judges make law for us without a full appreciation of the social, economic and cultural conditions in which we live? These are Judges, by and large, with an English mindset who are therefore bound to export their English ideas and concepts to our shores. This is precisely the reason why Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India among many others now have their own final Court instead of the British Privy Council. It is common knowledge that their Common Law has developed to suit their particular needs. Why not us?

Trampling on our Independence

Independence, in its strict sense, normally provides control of the institutions of government including the judiciary to the independent people. In most Caribbean countries, however, the elected representatives of the people have no say in the composition of their final Court – yes, the executive, the legislature but not the judiciary. Isn’t it time for the process to be completed?

Our Judges

Over the decades our Judges have proven themselves to be of the highest integrity and academic pedigree. Many have served on international legal tribunals and are as capable as Judges anywhere in the developed world. It has long been canvassed that rigid adherence to Privy Council made Common Law may well lead to injustice in some cases where the anatomy of our society is misunderstood. Further, this may also result in the restriction of the proper development of our Common Law which needs to reflect our Caribbean peoples’ way of life.

Beating up

We relish beating up on ourselves. We often mourn how inadequate and worthless we are to accomplish anything of nobility and excellence. That is our prison. It is high time to break free and soar to distinguished heights!

Yes we can!