Cases heard doubled in countries after acceding CCJ’s appellate jurisdiction – Judge
…St Lucia becomes 5th State to recognise Court for final appeal
Caribbean states which have acceded to the Caribbean Court of Justice’s appellate jurisdiction have seen the volume of cases being heard almost double on an annual count, thereby expanding access to justice for their citizens.
This was revealed in light of an announcement that the Constitution of Saint Lucia (Amendment) Act has been assented to by the Governor General of Saint Lucia, and the state has now officially acceded to the CCJ’s appellate jurisdiction.
President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Justice Adrian Saunders welcomed the move on Tuesday, sharing that Saint Lucia now becomes the fifth Caricom nation to take this defining step.
In a statement, Justice Saunders penned, “The CCJ welcomes the opportunity to serve the citizens of that country. Statistics collated by the Court in 2022 reveal that in each Caribbean state that has acceded to the CCJ’s appellate jurisdiction, the volume of cases being heard by that country’s final court annually has at least doubled, thereby contributing to the dynamism of the country’s jurisprudence and considerably expanding access to justice for its citizenry. We have no doubt that Saint Lucia too will have a similar experience.”
This has materialised about one year after Saint Lucia had announced steps toward breaking ties with the British Privy Council.
The Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Dame Janice Pereira, and the President of the Saint Lucia Bar Association, Diana Thomas Hunte, have been written to, advising of the readiness of the CCJ’s Registry staff to assist Saint Lucian court officials, litigants and counsel alike in the use of the CCJ’s electronic filing and case management portals in order to facilitate access to the Court.
“The CCJ looks forward to serving the people of Saint Lucia as we do all the states and people of the Caribbean Community and in particular, those of Guyana, Barbados, Belize and the Commonwealth of Dominica, whose final appeals we hear,” he added.
He noted that the CCJ looks forward to more Caricom states accessing the CCJ’s appellate jurisdiction in the future.
The CCJ has two jurisdictions, an appellate jurisdiction and an Original Jurisdiction. In its appellate jurisdiction, the Court serves as the final court of appeal in civil and criminal matters for those countries of the Caribbean Community which are parties to the Agreement and have acceded to the appellate jurisdiction. In its Original Jurisdiction, the Court is a court of first instance which applies rules of international law in respect of the interpretation and application of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
Apart from Saint Lucia, the Court receives cases in its appellate jurisdiction from Guyana. Barbados, Belize and Dominica.
Justice Saunders had expressed disappointment last year that almost two decades after the CCJ was inaugurated, only a handful of Caricom countries have enacted laws to make the Trinidad-based court their final court of appeal.
The other countries, including the most populous ones – Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica – continue to have Her Majesty’s Privy Council decide their final appeals.
Addressing this issue, the CCJ President had underscored that, “Whether a State chooses to continue having Her Majesty’s Privy Council adjudicate its final appeals is of course a fundamental constitutional question for that Government and its people. It is disappointing, however, that any Caribbean country should renege on its treaty responsibilities preferring instead to have British Judges continue to interpret its Constitution and laws”.
According to Justice Saunders, the Governments of Guyana, Barbados, Belize, and Dominica “made a wise decision” in accepting the CCJ as their final court of appeal. (G12)