President of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Justice Adrian Saunders, said that the court would continue “ongoing initiatives with justice sector bodies” in Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada despite the population in those two Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries voting in favour of retaining the London-based Privy Council as their final court.
“While the news is not what we hoped for, we respect the people of both nations and their decision,” Justice Saunders said in a statement following Tuesday’s referenda in the two countries.
“One of the positives that came out of this exercise is that there was sustained public education in both nations and the conversation about the CCJ intensified. We can see the fact that there was more interest in our website, ccj.org, and on our social media platforms, on LinkedIn and Twitter.
“As we begin to implement our strategic plan for the 2019-2023, which includes a renewed focus on public education, we will certainly be taking advantage of the increased audience, and the interest that has been piqued, to provide more information about the work of the Court,” Justice Saunders said.
The governments in Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada had hoped to join Belize, Barbados, Dominica and Guyana as the only CARICOM countries that are full members of the CCJ that was established in 2001 to replace the Privy Council as the region’s final court.
The CCJ, which has both an Original and Appellate Jurisdiction, also functions as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-mdmber regional integration movement.
Justice Saunders said despite the defeat, the CCJ “will naturally continue ongoing initiatives with justice sector bodies in each of these countries, and the wider Caribbean, through the JURIST project and otherwise.”
The turnout in the referendum in both countries were low.
In Grenada, of 21, 979 votes cast, some 9,846 persons voted to adopt the CCJ as the final Court of Appeal,, while in Antigua and Barbuda, there were 9,234 votes against and 8,509 votes in favour of the adoption of the CCJ.
“These results will not, of course, deter us from serving with distinction those nations that currently send their final appeals to us. As well, the Court will also continue to process and hear applications from all CARICOM States, and from CARICOM itself, in our Original Jurisdiction, and our justice reform work in the region will also continue,” Justice Saunders said.
The CCJ noted that Grenada has an Original Jurisdiction case currently before the Court and that the JURIST Project, which is a multiyear justice reform project being implemented by the CCJ on behalf of the Conference of Heads of Judiciary of CARICOM states, is working on a Sexual Offences Model Court to be housed at the High Court of Antigua and Barbuda in 2019.
The CCJ Academy of Law is also hosting a legal conference in Jamaica in December 2018 at which jurists from both countries, as well as the wider Caribbean, are participating, the CCJ added.