Attorney at Law and former Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC), Derick Sylvester has expressed fears that Grenada could be plunged into a constitutional crisis if the judiciary is not fixed urgently by the government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
Sylvester was among those lawyers who heeded the call of the Grenada Bar Association (GBA) to assemble Monday at the Car Park of the Supreme Court Registry on Church Street, St, George’s to protest against government’s disregard for the Judiciary.
He told reporters that if the legal system is not given the attention it requires then everything may come to a halt, which will then result in a constitutional violation.
“What we have also is a serious human resource problem. We have approximately 600 matters being filed in the court annually and we have three judges – we have one civil judge and two criminal judge.
What that creates for us ,is naturally a back log”, he said.
“… I believe it’s humanly possible and economically possible to have at least two criminal judges, two civil judges and a permanent Master stationed in the jurisdiction for civil matters…”, he added.
Sylvester went on: “…If we do not have that, ultimately what will happen, the system will have a back log. We have in excess of 100 plus criminal cases – we have persons who are on remand. I have one client who is a medical student, he was in his final year and we have been applying for bail repeatedly and we cannot get bail solely because of an issue as to risk of flight and I am saying if the system grinds to a halt, then we have constitutional violation”.
According to Sylvester, the constitution states that every person who is charged with a criminal offence must be tried within a fair and reasonable time and “a period of reasonable time is not two years, three years, four years, five years”.
“…I believe that this (the judicial system) must be given the priority that it deserves, more than just lip service”, he remarked.
The attorney charged that both the infrastructure of the court and the human resource aspect are equally important in getting the judiciary to function properly.
“I had a trial recently on the 7th of December with myself and Learned Queens Counsel Mrs. (Celia) Edwards and you had a judge who had to write for hours. Justice Glasgow had to painstakingly write questions and answers and I am saying if we have to move forward as a nation, 40 plus years after independence, we definitely need the judiciary to be properly impacted with staff and with a proper facility,” he said.
Over the years, lawyers have been calling for the use of stenographers at the level of the high court and court of appeal.
Sylvester called for a Hall of Justice to be erected which could ultimately address most of the problems now being experienced in the judiciary.
He said: “What we need is not a temporary building, what we need in my respective view is a Hall of Justice – a Hall of Justice where you have maybe a Magistrate’s court on one level, the high court on one level, the Court of Appeal on another level and maybe the library facility on another level and we need a proper library.
“…Lawyers who just come into the practice who cannot afford to purchase books, should have an avenue whereby, they can go into a library and properly research matters. So you articulate an issue before the court but the issues that we have now is chronic and if it’s not addressed, the system would grind to a halt and we would have a constitutional fiasco”, he added.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the government legal service is also in crisis and shambles with the recent exit of a female lawyer and an experienced legal secretary into the private sector.
In addition, the acting Registrar of the Supreme Court, Alana Twum-Barimah has reportedly submitted her resignation from the post within the past week.