“Radiation” at Lime building result in closure of High Courts
A number of lawyers in Grenada have expressed grave concerns over what they called “a crisis in the Judiciary” with the closure of all high courts due to alleged radiation and continued environmental and infrastructural challenges at the High Court Building on The Carenage in St. George’s.
The Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government is known to have spent millions during the 2013-18 term in office to take over the building from Lime and turn it into a High Court of Justice.
The alarm bell was sounded last week by experienced criminal defense attorney, Anselm Clouden when he told reporters that some judges are refusing to sit in the building and as a result all scheduled civil and criminal matters were put on hold.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the search is on for a new facility to conduct court proceedings in the interim and that South City Plaza at Grand Anse is high on the agenda.
High Court Judge, Raulston Glasgow has reportedly refused to go back into the Lime building after falling sick weeks ago and is currently doing only Chamber matters at the Mediation Centre on Scott Street.
Supreme Court Registrar, Alana Twum-Barimah on Tuesday confirmed to THE NEW TODAY that the LIME Building, which houses 2 criminal courts – High Court No. 2 and High Court No. 5, and 2 civil courts – High Court No. 3, and High Court No.4 is not in proper working condition and “will not be utilised for court hearings for this week” or at least until a new facility is located or the problem at the LIME building is rectified.
“At the moment we are looking for a new facility,” said the Supreme Court Registrar, who disclosed that she had notified the relevant persons on Monday of the situation at hand.
Twum-Barimah indicated that a team from the Grenada Bureau of Standards (GDBS) was called in approximately one month ago to access the situation with the building.
During a previous interview with THE NEW TODAY, the Registrar said that the Ministries of Health and Works were called following medical complaints from some users of the court.
She revealed on Tuesday that “allergens were found in different chambers (and) there is a spike of radiation in one particular area of the building” but the actual cause is yet to be determined as “investigations are ongoing by the GDBS to determine whether or not the building is safe for occupation”.
Discussions to turn the Lime Building into a High Court of Justice started under the 2008-13 Tillman Thomas-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) regime.
However, it was not completed with a major stumbling block being an insistence by then Attorney-General, Jimmy Bristol that the telecommunications provider should remove all electronic equipment from the building.
Speculation is rife that some of the equipment that were left on the compound could be related to alleged radiation leak in the building.
A well-placed legal source said that when Lime was using the building that a number of its own staffers frequently fell sick.
THE NEW TODAY understands that only 12 criminal matters were completed since the April 2018 Assizes opened at the Lime building from a total of 139 matters to be shared between the 2 criminal courts on the compound.
Information has not been forthcoming as it relates to the status of matters before the civil courts.
Crown Counsel in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Brendon La Touche, who had an ongoing sex-related trial and another matter of a similar nature down for sentencing on Monday at High Court No.2 , confirmed to this newspaper that he had received notice the day before (Monday, May 21) that “basically everything is on hold until further notice.”
THE NEW TODAY also spoke with President of the Grenada Bar Association (GBA), Lady Anande Trotman-Joseph, who pointed to the obvious inconvenience posed with the unexpected closure of the courts for not only lawyers but their clients as well.
“What would happen is that we will be building up a backlog.
“Some of the attorneys have reported to me that they are very concerned especially where the matters are urgent, such as injunctions and breaches of property…but more importantly I have also had concerns shared about elderly clients, because some of them, when backlogs begin to build up, they may pass on and leave their matters unresolved…and a lot of people towards their latter days, they want to know that all of their affairs are in order,” she added.
Speaking specifically to the impact on persons before the criminal court, Lady Anande acknowledged that the situation is a “major concern for the accused, because of course there is a certain obligation on the part of the justice (system) to have matters heard in a timely manner and of course it’s prolonging the agony for the victims as well.”
However, she was quick to point out that while “timeliness” in dispensing justice was important to any accused person before the criminal court, the fact of the matter is that “individual interests” as it relates to the health of persons should be seen as “the greater good”.
“I think that in this case we have to put the greater good above and beyond the specific interests of individual litigants or accused persons,” she remarked.
This is not the first time that court proceedings were halted at the Lime building.
In July, 2017, then presiding civil high court judge, Madam Justice Wynante Adrien-Roberts had to be relocated to High Court No. 4 as a result of rain water leaks observed in a section of the roof, following constant heavy rainfall with the passage of tropical cyclone Hurricane Bret.
Legal sources told THE NEW TODAY that the current impasse poses another major challenge for the planned sitting of the Court of Appeal from this coming Monday to Friday.
There are unconfirmed reports that the Justices of Appeal are giving thought to hearing matters through video conferencing.
However, the Supreme Court Registrar expressed optimism that a suitable location will be found soon to resume normal court proceedings of cases and I think this is the greatest inconvenience,” she said.