With the announcement concerning the filing of Grenada’s first case with the 14th February 2001 Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on 25th September 2018, the golden opportunity is now opened for the people to understand the practical legality of the concept “access to justice”, as applied to the CCJ.
The proponents of the CCJ must also see and seize this opportunity, as an honourable obligation to explain the technicalities surrounding the use and operation of the CCJ.
In fact, many conflicting, questionable and confusing issues arise from the public statements by Attorney Ruggles Ferguson who is the chief lawyer in the case and a spokesman for the CCJ Advisory Committee which is spearheading the constitutional CCJ referendum planned for 6 November 2018.
A leading virtue of the CCJ is being promoted in terms of “access to justice”. The CCJ is presented profusely as being approachable and affordable to the ordinary people, as being the beginning and ending of all court cases, as being executing prompt and immediate judgements, as being delivering clean and comprehensive justice, as being hassle-free and free of political influence, and as being having no preliminaries or no preconditions to meet.
However, Grenadians have the opportunity to test these assertions by thoroughly following and analyzing the local first-time case, and by reviewing the internet-circulated five-part article “Is Grenada’s CCJ Referendum really about access to justice?” The full-truth must be ascertained before voting yes for CCJ.
The subject-case involves alleged bullying and humiliation meted-out to the Gilbert family of Grenada by the Royal Barbados Police Force in October 2016, and the action is taken against the state of Barbados in the Original Jurisdiction of CCJ.
Mr. Ferguson is hoping to cash-in for success at the November’s referendum on the so-called “access to justice” reality, with the “speed” of the CCJ’s filing, hearing and judgement as is typically boasted of by using the Eddy Ventose case (CCJ Appellate No. BBCV2018/001) and the Shanique Marie’s Original Jurisdiction case (CCJ Application No. OA 002 of 2012). But, what are the facts? Should Grenadians accept fake or artificial “access to justice”?
The ordinary Grenadian people have been undergoing grave injustice by the powers-that-be, particularly the government and the legal fraternity, having denied since the year 2001 significant information about the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and the Agreement establishing the CCJ with an Original Jurisdiction and an Appellate Jurisdiction.
Furthermore, the people have not been exposed and facilitated to the CCJ in its Original Jurisdiction which Grenada is qualified for and entitled to from that time. Yet, the powers-that-be tend to be chastising the people and making them scapegoat for not accepting CCJ in its Appellate Jurisdiction with a misleading process. Was “access to justice” confined to CCJ’s Appellate cases, and not related to the Original Jurisdiction?
Not only have the Government signed and committed local Grenadians to regional Caricom’s treaties without their knowledge, understanding and endorsement; but more specific, the ordinary people have not been sensitised and mobilised on the ‘first-hand’ alternatives for judicial redress.
“… The masses are kept in ignorance of the already available, user-friendly, less stressful, easier and cheaper avenues for the resolutions of conflicts and complaints, as facilitated by the Improved Access to Justice” (IMPACT Justice) Project referenced caribbeanimpact.org/website/, and the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project via www.juristproject.org/; …”, cited from Part Four of the article, “Is Grenada’s CCJ Referendum really about access to justice?”
A derived warning from the public statements in relation to the filing of Grenada’s first CCJ case, of which the people must be aware, is that permission must be obtained from the Government before taking a case to the CCJ.
Since government is about politicians, then indeed political prejudice can affect, whether or not, a personal case is advanced to the CCJ for justice. Is this protocol providing an ‘automatic and unrestricted’ “access to justice”, as is being promoted?
Isn’t there a potential or perception of political interference which could result in delays to the extent of missing statutory limitations?
It has been reported that Attorney-At-Law Ferguson said that … we have applied for what you call special leave to bring the matter in the CCJ.
“So the application before the CCJ is for special leave to file the matter in the Caribbean Court of Justice,” he said (www.cbc.bb/index.php/news/item/6313-grenadian-family-taking-barbados-to-ccj).
“As an individual, they have to seek special leave of the CCJ to do so and the Government of Grenada has given consent to them bringing the matter before the CCJ. As individuals when you bring it as an individual you must get special leave. Now that the matter has been filed the next step will be a hearing date by the court for the substantive hearing” (www.nowgrenada.com/2018/09/grenadas-1st-case-filed-before-the-ccj/).
How must this revelation be taken? Is the Government’s authoritative role the hindrance for the people, or responsible for no previous cases being made to the CCJ in its Original Jurisdiction, and is this control also for the Appellate Jurisdiction?
Or, should it be concluded that there have not been any trade issues negatively affecting Grenada within Caricom? How should for example, the issue since the year 2013 concerning the Bee-honey producers be treated?
Meaningful “access to justice” must be well-defined.
J. K. Roberts