CCJ engages Caribbean Media Workers
- Published on Tuesday, 26 June 2012 06:44
- Written by Press Release
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Port of Spain, Trinidad (CCJ): Ordinary citizens in the Caribbean have been benefitting from the existence of the CCJ. This was indicated by The Right Honourable Sir Dennis Byron, President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), at a media engagement meeting today at the CCJ’s headquarters.
Journalists and media workers from throughout the Caribbean, Commonwealth and other countries worldwide are in Port of Spain this week to convene the World Congress of the International Press Institute (IPI). With the assistance of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM), the CCJ was able to meet with a group of Caribbean-based media personnel, which included representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname.
The President and three (3) Judges made short presentations on the work of the CCJ, its independent framework, expansion of its appellate function, and the international approval of the Court.
Outlined below is a brief synopsis of this morning’s discussions;
The Right Honourable Sir Dennis Byron – President of the CCJ
Through the use of statistical records of the Court’s work, the CCJ President, The Rt. Hon. Sir Dennis Byron, alluded to the effective functioning of the CCJ in both its appellate and original jurisdictions. He spoke to the existence of the CCJ as providing greater access to a final appeal court for ordinary citizens, as evidenced by the overwhelming number of civil matters filed at the CCJ. President Byron also presented examples of cases where persons were able to gain relief for their day-to-day issues. He noted the impact that the use of technology has had on access to justice and expeditiousness of processes at low costs to customers of the Court. (Full speech attached)
The Hon. Mme. Justice Désirée Bernard - Judge of the CCJ
The Hon. Mme. Justice Bernard presented on the political independence of the CCJ as achieved through; its funding mechanism - an independent Trust Fund, contributed to by the governments, but managed separately by the Trust Fund’s Board of Trustees; and the appointment of judges and staff through the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC).
“I always wonder why in our region it is suspected that politicians will get to the court. This is a Caribbean court and I cannot see how one politician in one state can interfere with the independence of a court comprising several persons from several jurisdictions. I think it is the greatest example of how independent a court can be. We all sit here in our individual capacities and not as representative of any government.”
The Hon. Mr. Justice Rolston Nelson
“The CCJ is ready to function in all its jurisdictions for all its members.” This was the underlying theme of Mr. Justice Nelson’s presentation which was supported by information on the dwindling number of countries in which the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) still has jurisdiction.
Justice Nelson also outlined the constitutional position of countries with regard to accession to the CCJ in its appellate jurisdiction. He noted specifically that Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica are not required to have referenda to move to the CCJ.
The Hon. Mr. Justice Jacob Wit
Mr. Justice Wit’s presentation began with the statement that CARICOM countries have already paid for the CCJ and will not need to expend anything further to access its appellate jurisdiction. On the often cited issue of the JCPC overturning judgments of local appeal courts, he notes that between 2004-2009 the JCPC overturned 53 per cent of judgments sent to it from the Caribbean. This is compared to the little difference in the rate of judgments sent to JCPC from the courts of England and Wales – 55 per cent. He also presented quotes from British Judges about the Caribbean having its own final court.
Main points of the Question and Answer Period
The panel noted that judgments from the CCJ are already being cited in the lower courts of countries that have not yet acceded to its appellate jurisdiction, reflecting the persuasive powers of the Court.
The Court President indicated that the CCJ cannot comment on a question put to the effect of whether member countries could determine which aspect of the final court they want to ascribe to, as the instance of Trinidad and Tobago choosing only the criminal jurisdiction of the final court.
The court is fully occupied. Apart from the judicial “in Court” functions, the CCJ is engaged in developing a regional jurisprudence through research, academic works of papers and presentations, and various outreach activities which include offering advice, support and training in law and court administration.
A question was raised on the procedure for accessing the CCJ, with reference to the matter filed by Jamaican national, Shanique Myrie, which did not go through the local courts before coming to the CCJ. The panel explained that Myrie matter was filed under the Original Jurisdiction (OJ) of the CCJ, which gives the Court the sole authority to pronounce on the rights of CARICOM citizens as prescribed in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. Under the OJ, citizens may apply directly to the CCJ for their matter to be heard. Consequently, if a treaty matter is brought before a local court, that court must refer the treaty matter to the CCJ.
There was a question on the CCJ’s ability to make recommendations to those countries which find it difficult to accede to the CCJ’s appellate jurisdiction due to various ‘constitutional difficulties’. Mme. Justice Bernard noted that it is not the responsibility or portfolio of the CCJ to advise governments. President Byron added that it may not in fact be the case that such constitutions need ‘fixing’, as he outlined that these countries may just have to cross their constitutional hurdles in order to fully accept the CCJ.
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