Dominica Bar Association outlines concerns regarding judicial system


The Dominica Bar Association (DBA) says 13 months after the passage of Hurricane Maria, there has not been a sitting of the High Court on criminal matters.

“This neglect of the judicial system in Dominica is unacceptable. It affects victims of crimes who are patiently awaiting justice, witnesses who are waiting to perform their civic duty by giving evidence in court, criminally accused persons on remand at the State Prison who are innocent until proven guilty,” said DBA president Mary Auriel Roberts.

She said the situation is also affecting lawyers who are constantly faced with the daunting task of explaining to clients the reason for inordinate delays and members of the public who are entitled to protection of law.

“While the neglect of the Criminal High Court Division is the most alarming and disturbing problem facing the judiciary at this time, there are other issues which must be highlighted,” she told reporters, adding that “the current backlog in the determination of the high court civil cases has been a cause of frustration for numerous court users.

“Many have complained about the lengthy delay between the filing of a claim and the actual trial date,” she said, adding “we are hereby calling on members of the public to lend their support to this cause by repeatedly voicing concerns to the powers that be until the change is realized.

“We call on the Ministry of Justice and the High Court Registry to take the necessary steps to ensure the immediate resumption of High Court Criminal trials. We further call on the Government of Dominica to request from the Chief Justice, the assignment of a second Civil High Court judge to the Commonwealth of Dominica in order to reduce the current backlog.”

The DBA said that on April 12, this year, the Minister for Justice and the High Court Registrar held a press conference at which promises were made about the resumption of criminal high court sessions within a few weeks.

The Association said that by letter dated April 17, 2018, it wrote to the Minister for Justice complaining about the Government’s neglect of the court and requesting immediate action.

“To this date, more than 13 months after the passage of Hurricane Maria, the High Court of Justice Criminal court room and the Baracoon building housing the civil court, are still in a state of disrepair although we had continuous assurances that the Registry building housing the Criminal High Court would have been repaired and available for use before the September Assizes,” Roberts, said.

She said that an alternative location for the holding of the high court criminal sessions has not been utilized.

“As such, no high court criminal trials have been held since the passage of Hurricane Maria,” in September last year.

Earlier this month, the Registrar of the High Court, Ossie Walsh, told a news conference that reconstruction work at the Criminal Court is progressing satisfactory and the facility is expected to be ready by January 2019.

So everything being equal, we should have the criminal court ready, I would say for January 2019,” he said, adding ‘if any unforeseen thing comes up we still have the use of the Parliament building as we always had from the end of September into October this year.”

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