Outspoken attorney-at-law, Anselm Clouden has complained abut the deteriorating state of affairs at the local judiciary.
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY newspaper, Clouden said that the justice system is coming under increasing pressure and pointed to the closure of one of the three high court on the island.
He pointed at High Court No.3 of Justice Madam Margaret Mohammed, which was being housed at the Hubbard’s building on the Carenage, which has suspended all, sitting until further notice.
The building that once housed St. George’s Club has reportedly become a health hazard to the Judge, lawyers and litigants who frequent the court.
According to Clouden the owners of the building out of fear for the safety of persons visiting the court was forced to take action, which resulted in, a suspension of court matters there.
He said that Jonas Browne and Hubbard’s denied liability in the event that any serious injury took place when the court was sitting.
He added that an opportunity was given to the “to find alternative accommodation (and) to date no alternative accommodation has been found for the civil judge and as a consequence, there’s no court (sittings)”.
Clouden said it is time for Attorney General, Cajeton Hood to inform the nation when the LIME building on the Carenage would become available to house some of the island’s courthouses.
Earlier in the year, Hood announced that government had decided to purchase the LIME building and use most of it to house the judiciary.
According to Clouden, the last assizes, which was to be held in High Court Number Two had to be adjourned because repairs had to be done on the roof of the building.
In addition, he said that a more depressing and unacceptable fact is that there is no accommodation in that court to house jurors.
“The temporary facility that has been improvised for the deliberation of the jury, from time to time has been visited by police officers, lawyers, members of the public because the only washroom accessible to the court requires you to pass through the jury room…”, he said.
“…So that from time to time litigants, accused persons, complainants, members of the public who wish to use the washroom must pass through the jury room – a condition that’s totally unacceptable with respect to the dispensation of justice,” he added.
Clouden spoke out against a situation in which jurors are allowed to intermix with the public while a matter is before the court.
“…Jurors … ought not to interact with the public at large but for the unacceptable conditions in Court Number 2, jurors find themselves interacting with the public”, he remarked.
Clouden pointed out that High Court Number 2 is approximately 100 years old and Madam Justice Mohammed when she sat there often times complained about dampness and moldiness in the building.
He said the bar is seriously concerned about the health of the current judge sitting in that court, Madam Justice Gilford because her chambers are not conducive to a healthy discharge of her duties because of the contaminated nature of the air
“What this sort of condition creates is lack of integrity for the Judiciary which happens to be a core arm of government and therefore, the Executive should not and ought not to put the Judiciary under such pressure by not providing the necessary funds so as to have a proper facility so that the judges can discharge their function.
“What it does is that it erodes the public’s confidence in the Judiciary and it brings the entire operation and the due administration of the law into disrepute among right-thinking people.
Clouden argues that the Judiciary should be adequately looked after financially and ought not to be made a scapegoat because the country is facing economic constraints.
He said: “In a democratic society, the Judiciary is a pillar of the maintenance of law and order and if you have an erosion of the independence of the Judiciary with that you will also have an erosion of the rule of law and it is my respectful plea to the Minister of Finance who happens to be the Prime Minister to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the courts and the judges are well placed and well protected in the work environment…”.
The Canadian-trained barrister-at-law stated that if the LIME building on the Carenage is being prepared as the Attorney General indicated then the State should move with great dispatch so that the courts can be afforded a proper facility from which the judges can dispense with justice.
“Just as Parliamentarians receive their monies, just as the Governor General receives her money and she is properly housed similarly the court ought to receive its money and be properly housed and the saying that there are checks and balances and that the Judiciary, the Executive and Legislature are core equal arms of government – none is superior to the other – but we have seen in recent past over the last decade that the courts have been made subservient to the Executive which is dangerous in a democratic society because it’s the genesis for a breakdown of law and order, he said.
Recalling the old adage, justice delayed is justice denied, Clouden said the courts are the last bastion of a free society and everything should be done to ensure that it functions properly and smoothly.