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CCJ President says Caribbean people need more information about the functions of the Court

From Nation News

Justice Adrian Saunders (FILE)

PORT OF SPAIN – The President of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Justice Adrian Saunders says he remains convinced that in order to gain stronger support in the region, more information must be provided to the Caribbean public about the regional court.

The CCJ was established in 2001 to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court and while several Caribbean Community (CARCOM) countries are signatories to its original Jurisdiction, only Barbados, Dominica, Guyana and Belize have signed on to the Appellate Jurisdiction of the CCJ that also functions as an international tribunal interpreting the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member regional integration movement.

Writing in the CCJ’s 2018 Annual Report released here on Friday, Justice Saunders said that more information was needed about the Court, its institutional architecture, its work over the last 13 years and what it can do to advance democracy and the rule of law in the Caribbean.

“This, in turn, requires messaging that reaches and resonates with every man, woman, boy and girl. Our Strategic Plan recognises this challenge and is geared at meeting it head-on.”

Justice Saunders said that the CCJ has been fulfilling its main purpose of developing Caribbean jurisprudence.

“It has been doing so with a first-rate complement of judges and an efficient court staff that enable the Court to perform amazing feats. The year ahead will be challenging, but I look forward to it with optimism. I fervently believe that the Court is on the right trajectory,” said Justice Saunders, the third Caribbean national to head the Trinidad-based CCCJ.

He said over the last year, the Court maintained its “solid track record” of outstanding judicial work.

The appellate caseload of the Court steadily expanded.

“But, even more significant than the increase in the number of appeals heard and judgments delivered, was the impressive variety and significance of the cases themselves. These included criminal and commercial law appeals, matters of statutory interpretation, and important questions of Caribbean constitutional law.”

The St Vincent and the Grenadines born-jurist said the cases of Nervais and Severin v The Queen and Attorney General of Guyana v Richardson, for example, plumb the depths of and leave a huge footprint on Commonwealth Caribbean constitutionalism.

But he noted that on the other hand, the flow of cases in the Original Jurisdiction has remained “sluggish even as opportunities for the growth of this jurisdiction are great”.

“This contradiction points to the need, perhaps, for more work to be done to inform the Caribbean public, the legal profession and the Caribbean judiciary about their respective rights, obligations and entitlements under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.”

He said that during the judicial year, the Court also continued a robust engagement with its partners including UN Women, The Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) aimed at advancing Caribbean jurisprudence and improving the quality and effectiveness of judges and the administration of justice.

“In particular, we are incredibly proud of the work the Court has done in promoting the dispensation of justice through a gender lens. One of the first, if not the first, issue that arises whenever anyone speaks of the Court is the fact that, to date, there are several states in the region that have not altered their Constitutions to make the CCJ their final Court of Appeal.

“This, despite the fact that regional states ratified an international treaty agreeing to take this step, and then expended tens of millions of dollars to establish and outfit the Court,’ Justice Saunders wrote. (CMC)

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