Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has shifted the blame from government to the judges for the long delays in adjudicating on matters pending in the local courts.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference last week Wednesday, the Prime Minister said that he is not buying the excuse given by the court for the delay in judgements as being the lack in provision of resources by government.
The court of appeal at its recent sitting two weeks ago released a number of persons from the Richmond Hill prison on account of their hearings being delayed for years due to the absence of transcripts from the lower courts to facilitate the hearings.
Lawyers have been blaming the Keith Mitchell-led government for not allocating enough budgetary resources to the court system to add to the one Stenographer who is already overworked with the preparation of transcripts from the high court to the court of appeal.
PM Mitchell described this contention as merely “an excuse” by those in the legal profession “for not doing your work.”
“That’s clearly false, clearly false – you can’t take five years to write up a simple judgement. We write a whole budget and run a country in a whole year, just a year. So, you have one decision to make and you take five years and you’re going to tell me because you don’t have a computer or something”, he said.
“There are periods in the past, when people had no computer, typewriters, 17th century stuff and they provided judgement in weeks – so that’s an excuse for not doing your work? The only institution I know where people could not do their work and not have any sort of accountability in terms of performance is the present system of the courts,” he added.
Prime Minister Mitchell acknowledged that the judiciary is an independent body and some people will be thinking that he should not be speaking out against it but he had a responsibility to the “Common man” in the country who are affected by delays in the court system.
“…Some might say I shouldn’t be speaking about this but I have a responsibility to the taxpayers of this country and I see ordinary people (suffering) … a guy leaves St. Patrick’s, poor man has a simple case, he comes down to St. George’s, spend money he doesn’t have and when he reaches case cancelled.
“He has to go back up – five times he does it…nobody is saying sorry or compensate him for the time he comes down but the day he doesn’t come, the case is called and judgement is given against him, he doesn’t show up and that’s the excuse. Tell me what is fair about this, I am not talking government now, I am talking people.
“…I have had people come to me in tears, they lost their land, they lost their money, no one is held accountable. If the politician does it, noises all over the place. Let you (journalists) do it, you’re going to hear some noises about you but the courts, no you mustn’t say anything, they’re so independent.
“None of us is totally independent, I am not independent, I depend on the taxpayers in the country …. every single one of us has a level of independence but we’re not totally independent in any sense of the word.
Prime Minister Mitchell admitted that there are weaknesses in the system and government can do more in terms of improving on the justice system.
However, he said the court cannot use the issue of stenographers and provision of transcripts as “an excuse” for the long delays in court matters.
“Government is not saying it has no role at all in delays in the system but to blame government by itself for that delay is to me extremely unfair, I can’t accept this,” he remarked.
Opponents of Grenada’s push to make the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the final appellate court in the jurisdiction instead of the British-based Privy Council have been urging government to address this deficiency in taking matters from the high court to court of appeal before the move.
Grenadians will vote in a second referendum on Tuesday to try and abolish appeals to the Privy Council.