The Gilbert family of Springs, St. George’s is seeking justice through the Original Jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) for alleged unpleasant and hostile abuse meted out to them at the hands of police officers in Barbados during a visit to the island on October 11, 2016.
The case was electronically filed by the St. George’s-based Ciboney Law Chambers last week Tuesday, in what was Grenada’s first case to the CCJ, ahead of the highly anticipated November 6, referendum to adopt the appellate jurisdiction of the court.
In what is believed to be the first case of its kind to be brought before the CCJ, the Gilbert family was forced to take legal action against the Royal Barbados Police Force, following the embarrassing episode in which two sisters were detained for questioning in relation to the theft of a cellular phone belonging to a store owner mere hours before their flight back home.
Providing insight into the circumstances that led to the family taking this course of action against the Barbados police force, lead attorney on the case and Managing Partner at Ciboney Law Chambers, Attorney-at-Law Ruggles Ferguson said that his clients were treated “in a very hostile manner by the Bajan police and ultimately ordered to strip naked, stoop and cough in the police station.”
In an interview with THE NEW TODAY last week Thursday, Ferguson recalled that after giving statements to Bajan law enforcement officers “denying any knowledge about the cell phone…the police insisted that Tamika (one of the Gilbert sisters) change part of her statement (and) she objected on the basis that it was her statement and she was not prepared to change it”.
“…They (the Bajan police) told her listen, if you are not changing it then you would not be leaving here”, he remarked.
According to Attorney Ferguson, the Gilbert family case challenges what he described as a “breach” in the right of all four members of the family to freedom of movement within Barbados.
The lawyer who is anticipating a speedy hearing “within the next three months said that the Gilbert family applied for “special leave” to bring the matter to the CCJ, because “in the CCJ we can count on speed and even if the CCJ doesn’t agree with the point then it can still be taken elsewhere after.”
The former president of the local and OECS Bar associations said: “If leave is granted…hopefully we would be able to do a hearing via video conference. So, I am saying the issue of access is what this court is all about. It’s much easier to access that court than even our local courts”.
Ferguson also spoke of another matter pending in a Barbados court, in which another Gilbert family relative, who resides in Barbados and was with the family at the time of the alleged theft, took similar action against the Bajan police.
He felt that this case will positively impact the upcoming referendum, given that “the CCJ is a court being spoken about very theoretically, because Grenadians have not used the court.”
“This (the Gilbert) case, and the legal point that we are raising, is the first case of its kind before the CCJ…we are essentially contending that the freedom of movement includes the freedom to move within Barbados, free from harassment and undue interference,” he said.
The local attorney contended that what is most important in the Gilbert matter is access to justice for all and that is what should be in the minds of Grenadians going towards the referendum poll on November 6.
“The fact than an ordinary Grenadian can access the court and notwithstanding in its original jurisdiction, but the CCJ is there to deal with all cases…over the past 13 years of the court’s existence, there have been many cases from other countries and it’s certainly good in my view…it gives greater meaning to the court,” Attorney Ferguson said.
“So, the court stands on its own proudly, among all courts in the world but the important thing when we speak about the court… is that it gives our people access to justice,” he added.
Paying tribute to “Barbados and Guyana, who were like the guinea pigs in 2005, when they joined the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ not knowing what the court would produce,” Attorney Fergerson pointed out that “we have judgments of the court…that are studied by academics throughout the world and coming for high praise too.
“So, we actually have a court that has been in existence and after 13 years, there is no major complaint about the court,” he said.
However, the attorney-at-law noted that “in fairness to any court the system of law is adversarial (and) there is always, will always be somebody dissatisfied with a judgment whether it’s the winner, or the loser of a case”.
In its original jurisdiction, the CCJ interprets and applies the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which establishes the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), including the Caribbean Single Market and Economy and is an international court with compulsory and exclusive jurisdiction in respect to the interpretation of the treaty.