Former Attorney-General, Dr. Francis Alexis, QC, believes that Grenada must soon sign onto the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to allow for the further development of the legal profession in the country.
In an interview with THE NEW TODAY newspaper last week Wednesday, Dr. Alexis said that the “legal profession cannot fully develop to its best potential if only a very small faction of lawyers get the opportunity to appear before the final appellate court (the Privy Council in London).”
He pointed out that less than 1 per cent of local lawyers are afforded the opportunity to appear before their final appellate court in distant London.
“If you look at the law reports as a guide, less than 10 lawyers get to appear before the Privy Council over a 10-year period,” Dr. Alexis said noting that “a select few of us including myself, do appear before the Privy Council but in terms of the overall development of the legal profession – what we need is a dispensation in which some of us lawyers are able to appear before the final appellate court.”
“The legal profession,” he said, “needs a situation in which a good many of its lawyers have a real opportunity to appear before the final appellate court in the system to (among other things) develop skills on preparing submissions to the court, standing up before the court and addressing the court as it is vital (but) most of us do not have this opportunity.”
Dr. Alexis put forward money as the main issue in several local lawyers not getting an opportunity to appear before the Justices of the Privy Council.
He said a case being prepared to go before the Privy Council “is going to cost the appellant over $120, 000 and in most cases the appellant would not be able to send any lawyer from Grenada to take part in the proceedings.
“…As such, the lawyers in London would account for that (most of the monies spent on the case). If any lawyer from Grenada goes it would really be on a pro-bono basis…so it has to do with a thing called money”, he added.
Dr. Alexis argues that appellants in cases from the local court of appeal cannot afford the cost involved in sending lawyers from Grenada to argue before the Privy Council this “is unhealthy for our legal profession.”
“If we use Guyana, Barbados and Belize for example, the number of lawyers who have been able to appear before the CCJ is much more than what used to happen when those countries were linked on the Privy Council,” he told THE NEW TODAY.
The noted constitutional expert also heads the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee set up by government, which has already recommended that Grenada should sign onto the CCJ as its final court of appeal and move away from the Privy Council.
Dr. Alexis disclosed that the Keith Mitchell- led government should give priority in the upcoming national referendum to get the approval of the electorate to act as soon as possible to de-link Grenada from the Privy Council.
“It is now up to the government to decide the way forward,” Dr. Alexis added.
In March 2014, Attorney-at-Law Anselm Clouden expressed contrasting views to that of Dr. Alexis on Grenada breaking away from the Privy Council.
The outspoken Clouden held the view that Grenada will be further embarrassing itself if it breaks links with the Privy Council in London and suggested that government should give more in-depth thought to making a final decision on the issue.
He noted that the CCJ is not free and Grenada does not have money to pay the regional court for its services.
While acknowledging that the CCJ is a step forward to further de-link from the Colonial bondage of the Privy Council, Clouden said that he can eventually support the move to abolish appeals to the Privy Council but just not at this point in time when Grenada is at its worst financially.
“You can’t pay the OECS – have they worked out or improvised a plan how they’re going to pay the CCJ? But the Privy Council is free. You don’t pay the judges of the Privy Council and you have among (it) some of the best judges in the world. So we get access to judges now free of cost and until we can afford to pay our way judicially, I think we should hasten slowly,” Clouden was quoted as saying.