It was with great sadness that I learnt of the passing of Justice Albert Redhead. And then June, his dear wife and widow invited me to deliver this eulogy at this service. I knew him as a longstanding colleague and as my dear friend. This honour bestowed upon me quickly made me realise that I had to overcome my feelings of sadness as he had lived a life that should be celebrated: the life of a man short in stature but larger than life with an extroverted personality, and a passion that was evident in everything that he did.
Justice Redhead leaves many mourners. His mother Adella and his father Antoine had other children, but he is survived only by Alban, Leroy and Gertrude. Alban told me yesterday that he was so moved at the Special Sitting of the Court with all the wonderful remembrances of Albert’s outstanding life and work that he could not help thinking about their mother who would have been so proud to see and hear the excellent and wonderful life that Albert enjoyed. He got married early to Veronica who was known as B and they had two sons Kenneth and Daron. These young men are in the same age group as my sons Michael and Nicky and they shared many youthful experiences growing up in St. Kitts.
Later he met and married his darling June from whom he was inseparable and got three daughters, Kizzy, Kebra and Kady. Albert and June were very family-oriented, and their extended family is large, too large for me to begin to individualise anyone in the time allotted. This extended family, we think must include the Judiciary, the judicial and registry staff, and police orderlies and the legal profession throughout the Eastern Caribbean. This was reflected in the wishes he communicated that they be given special status at his funeral.
And yesterday at the Special Sitting of the High Court of Justice held in his honour, we heard the heartfelt outpouring of praise for his work, his mentorship, his fearlessness and his fairness, and the valuable contributions he made to the administration of justice and to jurisprudence in the region. Albert also had lots of close and intimate friends. These included my own extended family. On behalf of my wife Norma, my children, siblings and extended family and on my own behalf, I extend sincere condolences to June and their children, to the extended family, to the judiciary and legal profession of the Eastern Caribbean, and to the many people who mourn his passing across the region. I pray God’s blessings and grace on you all at this time of sorrow and mourning.
Albert Redhead started his life in Grenada, almost 81 years ago, on 28th November 1938. His early education was at St. Luke’s Anglican School and then on to secondary school at Presentation Brothers College. After school he taught at Beaulieu RC School in St. George’s, before departing for the UK in 1960. In England he worked at London Transport and for the Royal Mail.
All the while, Albert never forgot where he came from. He was exceedingly proud of his roots, and of the fact that without having been born with the so-called “silver spoon” in his mouth, he had the innate ability, the tenacity and the discipline to complete his legal studies at the University of London in 1971 and go on to be called to the Bar of England and Wales at the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple in 1972.
At that time, aspiring lawyers had no choice but to go to England to study and obtain qualifications. In those days, there was a large group of Caribbean people going through the same process. I know that my own brother Terence Byron who was at the Inner Temple and who is here today, and the learned Consie Mitcham who was at the Middle Temple, both of St. Kitts, qualified at the same time with Albert, as did the retired Trinidad Justice of Appeal Hon. Justice Stanley John at Lincoln’s Inn.
In 1972, he returned to Grenada and went into a law partnership with the learned and well-known Lloyd Noel. One of Albert’s clients was the late Maurice Bishop. The quality and style of his representation made him become a target of the then Prime Minister Eric Gairy. The story is told that on one significant day his older brother Alban, who is here today, went to Albert and warned him to get out of town before sun down.
In 1974, Albert accepted public service employment in St. Kitts. He started out as a Crown Counsel and I got to know him immediately as I frequently appeared as defence counsel in matters against him. In fact, Albert told the story of arriving in St. Kitts on the 1st of September, and then prosecuting his very first case before the court on the 6th of September, in which I appeared against him as defence counsel.
The Prosecution’s case was that three men were seen by the police docking a smuggling boat, one of whom was my client. The police approached the boat and the men fled. My client had lost his left arm and was unable to outrun the police. I found Albert to be a formidable opponent. After the case was over, my client having been convicted, I offered Albert a lift back into town and on the way, I suggested we stop for lunch at the Rotary Club. We became good friends from that day onwards.
He served as Registrar of the Supreme Court, Magistrate, Permanent Secretary, and Director of Public Prosecutions in St. Kitts and Nevis, and thus gained a wide range of experience in legal and judicial systems as well as governance. I was able to see Albert grow in stature as a jurist. Would you believe, that just as in his first case, he also came up against me in the final criminal case that I defended before joining the Bench in 1982. That case involved a love triangle. My client was charged with the murder of his girlfriend’s lover, and as usual, Albert performed outstandingly, although the conviction he got was not for murder.
On the 1st of February 1985, he was appointed as a Judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, and he served assiduously. His first assigned seat was Antigua. He had become well-liked in St.
Kitts and established a close relationship with the society. And then he had to wrench away and move to Antigua. His initial posting as a judge was actually intended to be Dominica, but an emergency developed in Antigua and he was sent here instead. He had absorbed a lesson in humanity as his first marriage broke down and ended in divorce. He said his posting to Antigua proved that God had a hand in his life because little did he know that his second wife, his dearest June, was waiting here for him.
June recalls that she was working in the Court with an assignment which brought her into contact with him. She tells how she resisted his approaches, until the day she moved houses and on one weekend she saw what she thought was impossible: A high court judge with a cutlass in his hand cutting the grass and cleaning her yard.
She said that was the clincher. And I quote her, “he wove his way into my heart”. She realised how serious and caring he was. In the end she described him as the best husband any girl could ask for.
He loved and adored his children, and as June says, “no one would not know my children were not his”. It was a view shared by her daughters who have said that they would like to marry a man like him.
Although there are some who thought he had a roving eye, his family members are full of stories of his love and adoration for them from the adventures of ensuring that he and June attended Kizzy’s graduation in Jamaica when BWIA was on strike, starting with a precarious journey on a small boat to St. Maarten; to his role as the Saturday cook when he produced his special dishes of curry goat and bull foot soup.
His family became very sensitive to the fact that Justice Redhead was seen as very strict on the criminal bench and developed a reputation for being tough on crime and on sentencing convicted criminals to long prison sentences. So they knew that in certain quarters he was called “JUDGE DRED”. His dear widow June and their daughters were often amused when their friends saw him in the home environment as a humble, gentle, jovial and welcoming man, and they would like me to show a bit of the lighter side of his life.
They told the story of a close friend who stayed at their home and was having a wonderful time. But on the Monday, after he went to court the friend confessed that he was gripped with fear and said, “I don’t mess with the judge when he puts on those court clothes. He becomes a different man”. It was clear to everyone that he took his job seriously.
Another story on the lighter side is that he was an avid fisherman and there was a boat captained by his friend Waldron that he used to go out to do deep-sea fishing. One day the weather was so calm and beautiful that he decided to plunge in the sea and swim around against the protestations of the captain. Shortly after he got back on board, a huge shark swam around the boat, and Waldron fainted. When he came to he said, “if that shark had come up 5 minutes earlier and eaten the judge, I would have been charged with murder because no one would have believed that is what happened”.
Although many people have used the word “fearless” to describe Albert Redhead, there was one fear that his family knew him to have – a fear of big-bottomed women. It is often said that small men love big women, but not Albert Redhead. When he saw women with generous derrieres he would cringe and shout “Oh God!” One day, June, who was not unmischievous, hired one such blessed lady to assist with some housework. That day, Albert retreated in fear to his study and did not surface again until the woman had left. When confronted about it, he provided no rebuttal. He pleaded guilty and threw himself at the mercy of the court.
As a Judge, Albert was tremendously hardworking, quick and thorough, and served with excellence. When he first arrived in Antigua, he joined the bench with me as I was also serving here as a Resident Judge. We were together in Antigua for the first three years of his tenure. In 1997, he was elevated to the Court of Appeal. By that time, I had become Chief Justice and he worked alongside me on the Court of Appeal. In his own words expressed just a few months ago, “no one has worked as long as I have with Sir Dennis”.
Throughout our professional relationship, although we found time to socialise and had many interesting and entertaining adventures, we were engaged in improving the quality of justice delivery, the development of Caribbean Jurisprudence, the growth of a culture for judicial education and reform initiatives. Albert was a key and outspoken player. There are numerous memories and the productive results of our engagement were evident for all to see.
Everyone agrees that Albert Redhead had the qualities of a judge of the highest calibre. He believed in the rule of law and had a strong sense of justice. Several senior lawyers have said that he was so fair and thorough, that even when they lost their cases, they were able to feel that the decision was right. Many lawyers across the region have recalled him as being very patient and courteous with them when they were still very young and green, ably guiding and mentoring them where he could. He made a lasting mark on the jurisprudence of our region.
He believed in the supremacy of the Constitution and the role that the court has to play in guaranteeing the rights of all citizens. This is not the forum to discuss his impact on the jurisprudence of our region which was so eloquently expounded at the Special Sitting of the court, but it would be remiss of me not to make a brief contribution to his impact on the
contribution to his impact on the development of our regional jurisprudence by way of brief reference to the following 3 cases.
This is the season where people are discussing the relative qualities of Caribbean Jurisprudence and those of the Privy Council. The discussion is often confused by comparing the Privy Council with the lower courts over whom it sits as a final appeal court. But even in that context, when Justice Redhead was a trial judge, as he was in the De Freitas matter, the Privy Council judgment which has been highly regarded was an affirmation of the judgment of Redhead as a first instance judge.
It was one of the early cases in the newly independent Caribbean where the court demonstrated its independence of the executive government in declaring and enforcing the constitutional rights of the citizen in disputes against the Government.
This decision has had a far-reaching effect, because just last week I was visiting St. Kitts and someone in remembrance of Justice Redhead told me that when he had his litigation with the Government of St. Kitts, where he successfully asserted his constitutional rights as a civil servant, his case was based on Redhead’s judgment in De Freitas.
Again, in this season when the independence of the judiciary is under scrutiny, it is worth remembering that while resident judge here in Antigua, Justice Redhead demonstrated the highest standards of fearless and faithful application of the rule of law. When a sitting Minister of Government disobeyed an order of the court, Justice Redhead famously ordered that he be sent to prison for contempt.
Although the Marpin case was not an Antiguan, but rather a Dominican case, his judgment in that case has had significant impact on liberalising telecommunications in the Caribbean and freeing it from the monopoly of the British powerhouse Cable and Wireless which dominated telecommunications throughout the Commonwealth.
The Privy Council indeterminate appellate decision in that case is a firm reminder that when the interests of British commerce are engaged the leadership of Caribbean jurists is important for us as a region.
On that note I must record that Redhead was a most passionate advocate for the Caribbean Court of Justice. He was part of the advocacy for its adoption, even long before it was instituted. He was openly concerned about the views the community had about judges and could not understand its source – he would often say “the man ain’t born yet who could bribe me”.
I have no doubt that if he had any regrets, one of them would be that he did not live to see all countries in CARICOM embrace the final appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ. I am sure that when the breakthrough comes he will rightly be remembered as one of the pioneers who devoted much energy to seeing it come to pass.
Albert was overjoyed when he was appointed to act as the Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court while at the Court of Appeal. He reached retirement age in 2003 but was immediately roped back into active service, albeit in an acting capacity and he continued to serve the region in many capacities. He was reappointed to act on numerous occasions and has served in Anguilla, the BVI, St. Lucia, Nevis, Montserrat and Antigua. He served the entire region and did so with distinction. He adopted Antigua as his home and after completing his tour of duty on the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal he settled here. He endeared himself to Antigua and her people and was well-loved in society.
After retirement, he continued to work with a pilot project for the reform of the Criminal Division in St. Lucia. He had the opportunity to serve as an international judge when he accepted an assignment from the United Nations which took him to Nigeria, Gambia, Ghana, and Senegal. It was a fact-finding mission into disappearance of Ghanaian citizens. He worked down to the end. In fact he was on an assignment in St. Lucia just about 6 weeks before the end. He liked to say, and with justification, that he is the longest- serving judge in the Eastern Caribbean.
Albert Redhead was a stickler for physical fitness and over the years stuck to his exercise program. In addition to his love for fishing and cooking, he enjoyed walking, swimming and gardening. He was known for seeming to possess an infinite amount of energy and vigour.
I have no doubt that the inner strength he had assisted him to survive the heart ailments that he began to endure for some time. But although he surpassed his three score and ten by ten more years, eventually his mortality triumphed. It is a stark reminder to us all for death can come at any time. In our times religion and spirituality are important values which we still need to cultivate. So, it is important to be ready for the day when we are called. And I ask you, are we ready?
June told me that shortly before the end he said to her, “I love you, let me go”. She thinks that he was ready to meet the Almighty. It is therefore important to remember that he was a man of faith.
There has been so much talk about his legacy. I suggest that in addition to everything else that we can think of, in remembrance of him we can ask ourselves: What is our relationship with God, with our loved ones, with the community in which we live, even with our enemies, if we have any? Are we at peace with our fellowman, and are we at peace with our own self? I do not want to usurp the role of our religious leaders today, but Albert’s passing has made me think of my readiness to die.
I am moved to pray:
“Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Please give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, so that we may know how to forgive those that trespass against us, and that we may not be led into temptation but be delivered from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen.
So finally, as we think of our friend Albert Redhead, and celebrate his full and purpose-driven life, let us also meditate on our purpose here and the important relationships that we have and those that we must heal. When the day and the hour comes, I pray that we each find ourselves ready, as Albert did, to go and meet our Maker.
May his soul rest in eternal peace.