Under pressure from the Grenada Bar Association (GBA), the Keith Mitchell-led government has moved to find a medium term solution to the lack of proper court facilities on the island.
Newly appointed Attorney General, Guyana-born Darshan Ramdhani told reporters Tuesday that the Government of Grenada has struck a deal to utilize the CLICO Building on Young street, St. George’s through a lease agreement to house a number of courts.
Speaking at the weekly post-Cabinet Press Briefing at the Ministerial Complex, Ramdhani said that the plan is to utilise the building for a couple of years to provide service for about four courts.
“The government has agreed to secure the facilities at CLICO – those arrangements have to be finalised. Technical teams have already been visiting that building from the Ministry of Works to make assessments because there will be some retrofitting to be done”, he said.
“We expect that there will be four courts housed in that building – two civil courts and two criminal courts, of course with the Judges chambers and the other administrative things in place”, he added.
AG Ramdhani described the planned move into the CLICO building as “a medium term plan for the housing of the courts” as the long term plan is to build a Hall of Justice to house all the courts.
He said: “… Government continues to be committed to a long term plan and that is of course the Halls of Justice Project. This, what we are going towards, is a medium term plan. So, we expect that there would be some level of permanency there as it relates to the courts…more likely a couple years. It is not our hope to be moving around at all but to have some degree of permanency where we go now”.
Earlier in the month, the local Bar Association staged a brief protest on the grounds of the Supreme Court Registry to express abhorrence with government’s failure to keep to its promise to provide proper court facilities by end of December 2018.
GBA President, Lisa Taylor has warned the Mitchell-led government that it plans to pursue the issue of the courts until steps are taken to make sure that a number of civil and criminal courts are properly functioning to provide justice for the population.
The issue with the lack of court facilities began just around the first quarter of 2018, when the LIME Building that housed about four courts had to be closed down due to health conditions.
Ramdhani recalled the journey it took the government to get to the point of a ray of hope with the CLICO building.
He said: “You would remember that the court facilities were housed at the LIME building and because of unavoidable unforeseen events related to environmental concerns and health concerns, decisions had to be taken to remove the court facilities from that building. After considerable deliberations, decisions were taken. Those were sudden and unavoidable and it meant that the machinery of government, the administration had to kick in – considerable discussions, considerable events took place after.
“…There were attempts to source the RBTT building, as you may recall, those discussions went far away. In the meantime the government did restore the former court number (one court), the criminal court. In the meantime, we have had the civil court being housed at the Parliament Building for a brief period last year. There was the use of the CAIPO Building to house one of the civil courts and the Court of Appeal. All of this meant that the administration has been diverting funds for other important matters into securing new facilities for the court. The Ministry of Legal Affairs is very concerned about this and so is the administration,” he remarked.
The local Bar Association, through its President Lisa Taylor, issued a statement on Tuesday welcoming the CLICO building move.
The release said, “The Bar has been and continues to be an integral part of the ongoing process between the government of Grenada and CLICO to secure a lease agreement for that purpose. The Bar looks forward to the successful conclusion of that process, as well as the speedy and proper execution of repairs and outfitting works which will be necessary before the high courts may commence occupation.
“Having regard to the recent debacle when similar pronouncements were made about another location with a disappointing outcome, the Bar urges prudence as lease arrangements have not yet been concluded and signed. Once this occurs, the Bar will continue to play an active and responsible supporting role to ensure that the building is commissioned for use in the shortest possible time.
“The Bar cautions that while this may represent an important development it is by no means a final solution. The Association will therefore continue its advocacy role concerning the other elements of the judicial system which still cry out for urgent action, as we look forward to the realisation of a permanent Hall of Justice for the people of Grenada.”
THE NEW TODAY understands that the Mitchell-led government was out bid by a local Credit Union in its efforts to secure the RBTT building in the heart of the city to utilise it to house several courts.