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Last updated: 30 September, 2009 - Published 15:02 GMT
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Forum: CCJ v Privy Council
privy council and ccj montage
Proceed with the Privy Council or convert to the CCJ

The judge who'll head the new British Supreme Court says Caribbean and other Commonwealth cases are taking up too much time of the Privy Council.

That has added to the debate over the Privy Council as the final civil and criminal appellate court for the region, while there is a Caribbean Court of Justice set up in 2001 to fulfill that purpose.

To date, however, the CCJ serves only two countries in that capacity - Barbados and Guyana.

Some comments from officialdom:
Vincentian Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says regional states have their own Caribbean Court of Justice to fall back on.

Retaining the London-based Privy Council as the region's final court of appeal remains a priority for Trinidad and Tobago's opposition leader Basdeo Panday.

Jamaica's opposition Peoples National Party has said it agrees that Kingston and others in the region have overstayed their welcome at the Privy Council.

Grenada’s Prime Minister, Tillman Thomas, said Caribbean governments should not be deterred from turning to their own court.(CMC)

President of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Bar Association Tapley Seaton is supporting calls for the Caribbean to stop using the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court of appeal.(CMC)

Now, have your say on the matter of CCJ v Privy Council.

We are a truly independent people and deserve our own court. Down with the Privy Council! Even if we may not be able to find the money to fund the CCJ, we know Britain and the EU will give us the aid to do so. This proves our independence. We are also going to become a republic. And though we are incapable of producing bananas anymore, that does not stop us from becoming a post-colonial banana republic. Down with the colonialists! Forward with Chavez and Castro.
Stephen Cork
Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines

Many of the commentators speak about the "politicisation" of the CCJ without appreciating how the structure of the Court has been designed to eliminate that possibility (financing with a Trust Fund, RJLSC appointing judges and fixing their terms and conditions). Some speak of not being able to "trust" the CCJ.....on what basis? I find we are behaving like a "big man" who is finding all kinds of excuses "not to leave his mother's house"....its such a pity that the region is still paralyzed by such self-doubt.
Rollin Bertrand
Tortuga, Trinidad

The people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have seen what the Judiciary has handed out to them when several cases were brought up to the Courts in St. Vincent. The political interference by several politicians is deplorable, hence, the reason for us to call for a stay of the Privy Council. Our people will tell you, who feels it knows it. While we agree that a home grown court should be ideal, we do not have the confidence that justice will be dispensed to people who are not party affiliated. I am sure that the Law Lords of Great Britain understand exactly what I am talking about when they review some of the cases that go up to them. Great Britain has a responsibility to police the disrespect given to the people of these small islands by vindictive Politicians through the local Justice system.
Mourine Ramjeet
Florida, USA

That the CCJ is in the Caribbean has no bearing on any effective Court in dispensing justice. The Caribbean, however, must ensure its people that the Court's judges cannot be selected by political powers.
One disadvantage lawyers in the Caribbean have had is that they were never really put to argue in front of the Privy Council. No one can really be sure that we are the same level as the high-powered barristers in the UK who argue before the Council.
On the other hand, the Privy Council as our final appellate body has become a disservice to us in the Caribbean in that we must wait along with other Commonwealth nations for our cases to be heard. It brings to my mind the saying, "justice delayed is justice denied".
For the CCJ to become our ultimate appellate court there also ought to be a reduction in the amount of money paid to attorneys. We ought not get the impression from our judicial system that attaining justice has a lofty, almost unattainable price.

The Caribbean peopleand their leaders have been duly put on notice to set arrangements in place and cut the legal umbilical cord.
When you become guardians of your destiny, wisdom and prudence will emanate as time and institutions mature, no other sovereign state can give that to us.
Offering excuses about the state of the politics is not rational discourse.
Cry no longer my people.You ventured afar to add values to other societies, minor hiccups will always be par for the course.
Be Encouraged.
Carlton Heywood
Ellenwood, Georgia, USA

After reading the past comments I am left a bit confused. Where does the presumption of the PC's independence come from? Just because they may be less likely to accept bribes from our Caribbean governments does not mean that they and the country they serve don't have interests that can and will most likely affect their judgments.
But let us say that the PC is a much more independent judiciary than the CCJ is or would be. I think that the PC in this case is still the lesser option. Their independence can easily evolve into dangerous indifference because they aren't as deeply impacted by their rulings and cannot see the profound effects they can have on Caribbean societies. Surely that cannot appreciate Caribbean life from the high courts in London. On the other hand, our CCJ justices, being residents and citizens of the Caribbean have that appreciation or at least have it to a much greater degree than a London-based law lord does.
How can the Caribbean expect the world to take us seriously on the international stage when we can't even trust our own to be the final arbiters of justice?
I would have very little respect for my neighbour if I saw that every time he had a serious dispute in his home he walked over to one of our other neighbour's house to resolve the dispute for him. So it goes with the world's perception of us on the international stage when dragging our issues to the courts in the same country that legitimised the reduction of us as a people to items of property... Lest we forget...
Anthony N. Morgan
Montreal, Canada

The experience of judicial appointments in our region is evidence enough that our democracies are not led by mature enough individuals to ensure that the openness and transparency required in appointing Judges would exist. The treatment meted out to Sir Brian Alleyne simply because he ruled against the government of Grenada is enough testimony that our leaders are not mature enough to select our judges.
Add to that the lack of maturity in discussions in Parliament no less when the CCJ is being discussed, where the opinions of the minority are completely ignored, resulting in the president having to reject (not assent to) a bill or bills coming out of parliament regarding the CCJ.
We may well have overstayed our welcome at the doorsteps of this colonial out post that the Privy Council is. However, we still feel confident enough that the facts will guide the decisions and not familiarity or name dropping.
I am sure that this dependence on a colonial entity is not what we envisaged when independence was touted. Yet many of us with reason coming out of our experiences still feel comfortable enough with the status quo to keep the embrace. Does it grate my psyche to say that? yes it sure does but I am firm in my belief in the well worn maxim...'better the devil you know'. Experience is my best teacher on this one.
Frederick Baron
Mahaut, Dominica

I understand the fears expressed by most writers, living in the caribbean is like living in a big village, and the expressed fears of politicians' interference in the judicial system. Let me say we have to start somewhere and trust our intellectuals. It is obvious Mother Country England (Privy Council) will not entertain us indefinitely, and so we need to hold our judges accountable. Politicians/leaders must lead by example and sign on to the CCJ.
Saddlers, St Kitts

We don't trust the CCJ
St Lucia

It amazes me that we in the Caribbean are still battling if we should or should not have the CCJ as our highest court. It's a real shame that we will wait till we are embarrassed by the British, when they eventually tell us that the service is no longer free to us and it will be fazed out. Then we as a region would find ourselves scrambling to get our act together.
Anthony Goodridge
Bridgetown, Barbados

It is not just the Caribbean that is affected. The Privy Council provides such a service to all Commonwealth member states that have chosen to retain the Privy Council as the final appellate court - it is a lot of work, of which the Caribbean has been identified as a lion share of the workload.
Secondly, the Privy Council has identified that the Caribbean has an alternative, its own final appellate court, the CCJ. But we in the Caribbean fear the politicisation of the CCJ. This is a teething reality that we must bear in the development stages of the CCJ, until we achieve a certain level of political maturity in the Caribbean, where we can appoint Justices to sit on the CCJ, though views may differ.
Thirdly, Jurists appointment is a difficult political issue everywhere. You hope that the court gets on with its work objectively after appointments, but appointments will always be political. The Privy Council may be independent in its decision making, but appointment is still a political process.
The CCJ will have teething problems. Political maturity will be a while yet in the Caribbean! However, to get to that matured level where we can all accept the ruling of the CCJ requires that we begin now. It is no excuse not to embrace the CCJ fully at this time!

Gerald LaTouche JP
Birmingham, England&
Roseau, Dominica

I would like to say that some of our Caribbean nationals are only calling for such action because they still have a negative attitude against the so-called ‘white-man’ ideas and way of life. This is sad because the Privy Council have been doing an excellent job with our serious cases I am confident that most Caribbean nationals have my feelings. Yes, I have confidence in our nationals, but it is our political ways that I am concerned about into the CCJ. We cannot and should not overlook this important fact. I am one person who believes that Caribbean people can achieve any thing but as always politics is our downfall and even the Privy Council members know this.
I strongly believe that the new president of the British Supreme Court made those comments because of what they are hearing from some our nationals and politicians about leaving the Privy Council.
Having the Privy Council as our final court of justice does not mean we are not independent; to me it means that we are sharing in the term Global village and community. Yep, there is an international court and our countries have signed onto it as well, so what is the problem with the Privy Council? Is it not the same thing?
Let us look at ways we can get the best from our relationship with the Privy Council to better our local Justice Systems.
St. Kitts and Nevis

We as Caribbean people are not yet mature to have a Caribbean Court of Justice to replace the Privy Council. Can you imagine what will happen if and when we have the CCJ as the final court of justice? Caribbean politicians … cannot bribe or corrupt the Privy Council but they may do just that with the CCJ. We need the CCJ to remind us that there is something called laws and regulations that MUST be obeyed.
Thomas Archibald
Cayon, St. Kitts

It’s about time we let go of this incessant need to be associated with Britain.
Our former Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson, along with many others lobbied for the CCJ in our country, yet still the opposition at the time refused to see the positives of this move.
It is often said the court would be tainted by political influence, and truth be told it is a real possibility. However, its just one of the many glitches we will encounter when breaking free from old habits.
Lets move on, don't let them kick us out, we should move on with some dignity intact!
Danielle Jones
Kingston, Jamaica

I think it's been a long time coming but I think the Caribbean is finally ready to move on from the Privy Council.
We're ready and I think we will do an excellent job administering our own justice in our own courts. We know the locale, we know the law, we have the experience, and the common sense.
The CCJ has been doing a superlative job and will serve us well as a final court of appeal.
Shivron Gay
Nassau, Bahamas

I had thought that by now-almost 40 years after independence that the debate will be an evaluation of the CCJ-not whether the CCJ should be our highest court.
Of course, the CCJ must be our highest court.
Unfortunately, Mr Panday's remarks do not surprise me.
We Caribbean need politicians who are prepared to struggle with us in bad times as our institutions evolve to meet our needs (the Privy council have been wrong at times) before we can enjoy the good times.
The annals of case laws are readily available for citation when needed. The Privy Council has served its master while in the colonial mode-its lingering may be a pretext for foreign governments to interrupt as was done in Grenada.
Sello Richardson
San Juan, Trinidad

I agree wholeheartedly with Danielle Jones. When breaking free and starting anew, it is never prim and proper as we would like it to be. With that said, I do not suggest that we just accept the foolishness of the beginning stages that could arise.
Let us walk away with dignity. Let us now begin to stress the importance of the CCJ (particularly in the Bahamas). Let's begin thinking on ways we can position the CCJ to make it a superior court of justice.
Kyle Dorsett
Dorsett, Bahamas

The shame of our cricket is now matched by the great indignity of the Law Lords telling us plainly: Grow up, you have sovereignty, so act responsibly like adults, and give the CCJ its due status and dignity". Our politicians are famous for reminding us of the difference between "jokers", and true statesmen. Thank God for the candour of the Law Lords and St Kitts' former governor general, who have exposed this sheer farce.
Tony Webster
Bridgetown, Barbados

I am proud to be citizen of the Caribbean, and proud of the various institutions that we have set up for various reasons of governance. Both the Privy Council and the CCJ are two important institutions that must be respected and are important for ensuring good governance. In my opinion most countries in the region, if not all, have some more growth to make in terms of maturity in good governance. There have been instances of interference by government officials in the region in certain judicial matters, which trespasses on the independence of the judiciary. There must be a total separation of the powers, and until this is clear, the independence of the Privy Council will have its place in the judicial arena of the region. I am for a strong and independent judiciary and once it can be guaranteed that the CCJ will be independent, then I will give my full support for its full implementation.
St. Kitts and Nevis

It is difficult to find justice in the court of the powerful if your opponent is kin to the powerful.
High profile cases against powerful families and governments will be the biggest test for the CCJ. The judges who presently sit on the CCJ can only be playing lip-service to the notion that they can handle the ride. In their minds they must be very happy that many cases between citizens and governments never reach their tables. Governments in the region are swift to use their POWERS to place their "boy" strategically.
Another important situation that must be appreciated is the ability of the machinery for evidence gathering and processing. Many local cases are riddled with poor and therefore suspicious assessment. It is amazing that many persons are convicted with such tardy practice which leaves the accused (as in the case of murder) with guided escape routes. The latter is not the problem of the PC, and the CCJ will not improve it either. The problem is the machinery of justice and who finally gives judgement.
The concept of independence is nonsense. You never hear the talk about independence when we receive millions in grants (with the Queen's head 'pon it').
Until CCJ proves itself it will remain in test mode. To the British Judge I ask you to picture yourself on a Caribbean vacation during which you are unfortunate to be attacked by a robber and you strike a blow and kill that intruder who happens to be a relative of a local minister. Where would you like the final court to be?
Murray Wayne
Kingstown, St Vincent

Well isn't it about time we move away from the Privy Council? We in the Caribbean have a habit of sitting down and waiting for crises before we act. Was it even necessary for us to be told that we are wasting the time of the highest court in the UK? The CCJ has been established for sometime now and is just part of the relic Caricom: talk and no action by our leaders. I say to the UK go ahead and impose fees of use for the Caribbean countries and get them moving. As for Panday's suggestion that we should stick to the Privy Council because is it causing a strain on them...I must really be missing something here as I cannot understand his logic or argument.
St. Joseph, Trinidad

There is an attachment disorder had by the intellectuals, especially in the legal community - a state of mind that does not believe in our nations' ability to cultivate an independent judiciary and assert ourselves.
This self-doubt is indeed reflective of absence of self-determination and it is unfortunate that that perspective is held by leaders around our region.
SVGepiphany (name given)
Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Privy Council's complaint
22 September, 2009 | News
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