OECS Bar Association disappointed after regional Prime Ministers criticize Courts



The OECS Bar Association (“the OECS Bar”), joins with its Commonwealth Caribbean counterparts in strongly condemning recent statements made by Prime Ministers Mia Motley and Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, which clearly constitute an attack on the independence of the judiciary and regrettably reflect a disconnect from the realities of criminal behaviour in society and the role of the Judiciary.

In statements widely published in the media throughout the region, both Prime Ministers harshly criticized judges for granting bail for murder and effectively accused judicial officers of favourtism to certain lawyers. Dr. Gonsalves characterized “too many” judges and magistrates as being “too soft” and called for the carrying out of the death penalty as a form of punishment. Both Prime Ministers were speaking at the two (2) day Regional Crime Symposium held in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on April 17th and 18th 2023, under the theme “Violence as a Public Health Issue – The Crime Challenge”.

Instead of focusing on the real issues impacting crime, such as the lack of investment in youth, the family, education, the judicial system, the police, and the crown prosecution service, some leaders preferred playing the blame game – blaming everybody else but the politicians currently in office.

The OECS Bar is truly disappointed at the missed opportunity at the symposium, in such an esteemed setting, in finding new and creative ways to tackle the scourge of crime, but instead leaving the headlines blazing and opportunistically focused on judges and magistrates who speak from their judgments and are in no position to defend themselves publicly against such attacks.

It is especially disturbing that the offending statements came from two very admired former legal practitioners, one of whom was a formidable defence lawyer.

The attacks on judicial officers were wholly unfair, unfounded, uncalled for, and misplaced. Our Bar Associations in the region have been consistently calling, over the years, for an overdue injection of resources to boost our legal system long suffering from poor accommodation, woefully inadequate and ill-equipped supporting registries, a serious shortage of judges to meet the ever-growing demand of cases within the system, and a lack of basic equipment and tools for transcription and other services ancillary to the work of judicial officers.

It is well known that judicial officers are largely overworked and operate under less-than-desirable conditions. Examples abound in the Eastern Caribbean of governments not paying their required financial contributions to the court, causing serious embarrassment to the judiciary. Growing backlogs of cases in the High Court and Court of Appeal, seriously impacting the administration of justice, are not creations of the judiciary but stem largely from an under-resourced judicial system.

The OECS Bar wishes to make it clear that judicial officers are not above criticism. However, Bar Associations have a duty to rise in the defence of judicial officers against unfair and unwarranted criticism, especially by agents of other arms of the State
seeking to absolve themselves of responsibility and heaping blame on them in circumstances where they cannot defend themselves.

The OECS Bar remains troubled by the statements of the two distinguished leaders, whose pronouncements carry great weight and influence in the region, and who know or ought to know the historical challenges within the legal system. Fortunately, judges
are sworn to uphold the constitution and the law, not to follow the dictates of politicians.

The OECS Bar wishes to remind our CARICOM leaders that our Constitutions mandate that every person charged with a criminal offence is entitled to the presumption of innocence and to a fair trial within a reasonable time. The presumption of innocence applies no less to persons charged with murder. In several jurisdictions across the region, bail has long been granted in murder matters.

In any event, judges act judicially, not arbitrarily. Each bail application will be considered on its own merit and a decision taken after considering well-established judicial guidelines. Bail is not automatic. Holding persons on remand for murder for long extended periods, in some countries for more than 10 and 15 years, without the possibility of bail, clearly infringes the guaranteed fundamental right to a fair trial.

Further, judges are bound by the decision of higher courts. If the Privy Council has therefore declared that withholding bail for murder is unconstitutional, then our judges must follow and apply the law accordingly. Moreover, under our system of separation
of powers, the executive, legislative and judicial arms are co-equal and constitutionally mandated to perform specific roles. Parliament, comprising a body of elected and appointed politicians, passes the laws which the courts apply. The OECS Bar further wishes to remind our CARICOM leaders that punishment aims, not only at retribution, but also at deterrence and rehabilitation. Studies have shown that the death penalty
does not meet the aims of deterrence and obviously provides no room for rehabilitation.

The OECS Bar recognizes the many challenges of crime fighting and calls on CARICOM leaders to be measured, mature, responsible, and objective in their public utterances, especially on issues that evoke strong public sentiment and may tend to erode trust and confidence in our judiciary. Crime fighting requires a broad collaborative approach involving not only the key stakeholders but also the public. We urge our leaders to desist from their unfair and unfounded attacks on the judiciary and provide the resources to build a strong and effective justice system.

The OECS Bar pledges to continue to defend the independence of the judiciary, uphold the rule of law and promote a more efficient and effective administration of justice. We shall also continue to educate and empower the public on issues touching
and concerning the law and on burning issues impacting the administration of justice.

Date: 27th April 2023
OECS Bar Association Inc

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  1. I thought Mia could not do or say anything wrong. She is our example of a good Prime Minister. Now it our PM Gaston Browne had said such thing! Oh Boy. The entire UPP and their cronies would be screaming from the mountain top. Calling him all sorts of names. But who cares what Mia or Ralph have to say? We have our own issues here at home to deal with.

  2. Absolutely nothing in their respective jurisdiction concerts them ,except when they are called out for their partisan practices, that they label as an attack. With all the goings on in Antigua and Barbuda, these people are yet to muster a single simple sentence but they have just written a novel, following the recently held symposium
    in Trinidad. I suppose that there are truths in the statements made by the regional leaders.

  3. If it was Gaston Browne there would have been 50+ comments by now coming from the residential trolls but at least its their hero/heroine Mia Motley so its all crickets in here boi what ah set ah people so quick to tear down them own…

    • We aren’t quick to “tear down our own” as you so put it. All autochthonous and genuine Antiguans want is a good, honest and decent Prime Minister. Simple really!


      • A hit dog will holla nobody talking to you yet you quick to jump under people comment. But who the cap fit mek them wear it😂. So easy it be to flush out the residential trolls.

        • Ah whey di water dey, mek mi flush way the most inept Prime Minister in Antigua’s history.

          You may enjoy Gaston Browne’s Premiership, but I can assure you @ Blame, that he’s not a patch on the Honourable Mia Mottley – so put that in your pipe and smoke it!

          Remember boss, a crab 🦀 never forget the hole he purge from. Phew 😖 what ah ‘tinking someting!

          • Who ever said I support Gaston Browne you residential troll🤣🤣🤣 its so easy get people like you triggered🤣🤣🤣 and fyi Barbados is not bed of roses. Was down the last week with a friend who was doing a medical procedure and me can’t believe that me haffu throw up water to bathe in the great Barbados. I was shocked😱. And lets not talk how down there expensive🤑. Maybe you need to stop looking at the world through this portal as they only tell part the story. But do you troll.

          • What is a troll?

            Is it someone who wants the best for the country and its citizens?

            If so, then Brixtonian is a paid-up member of trollism 😁

            Over to you now, you Gaston Browne 🥸 apologists – in 3, 2, 1 …

  4. Compliments to the OECS Bar Association for upholding the Separation of Powers in their Defence of the judiciary, and their condemnation of two elder statesmen(?) of the political arena who are non-practicing lawyers.
    Clearly we require Constitutional Reform to bring the Rule of Law into the culture of our community. The control of the administration of Justice including the Registries must be totally removed from political interference.
    The delay factor which is the worm in the apple and the methodology of political control, must be wiped out totally, for Justice to be free and fair for all!

  5. Why are they complaining? Change the laws. Where are the mandatory minimums? Criminals arrested for gun passion are still getting fines. Politicians need to wake up, stop complaining, and do their day jobs.

  6. Coincidentally, I penned an article just over a week ago expressing similar concerns. I am sure that the readers here would remember it. The remarks from the regional leaders were hostile, damaging, unwarranted and unfortunate to say the least.

  7. The legal profession in the Caribbean is a bunch of bloodsuckers They get criticized and then they run for cover.
    Where have these characters been? When were the legal symposiums held? Were the scholarly articles written?
    Their counterpunch is weak at best. One would hope that the criticism warranted or unwarranted would cause them to to step up as a legal profession should do. Rather than issuing their public counter-attacks; they would meet with both PMs and discuss the required reforms giving both parties the opportunity to save face. The spoiled brats are screaming about unfair tratment

  8. A young woman who was the mother of NINE children was hit by a driver in New Winthrop’s now many years ago. The name of the woman is Andrea Hughes
    This Smart lawyer has up until today blocked the case from going forward. So no justice for this lady’s family her children and others. I get sick in my stomach when I see how our legal system is misused by some layers. And not ONE reporter is staying on this story and asking the DPP for answers. But they running after ANTIGUA AIRWAYS, and what happened to Cameroonians. Give me an aspirin. Where there is no political gain everyone is quite. I will always pray for her that one day we will have justice for this soul. She was not an animal that died. She was a human being. And whenever a human being dies someone needs to give account for that. Therefore it cannot be that young Mr. Ryan can go all these years without having to face the court. It’s very simple. You go to court and defend your action. And the jury may set him free or convict him. But not even facing the court is absurd. That only happened during slavery when you killed a slave, because slaves were not considered humans. They were cattle.

    • Now FTS I don’t normally agree with you. In fact most times I just scroll pass your comments but this here I can agree with. Other than you and Tanny Rose I hear no cries from justice for this young lady especially these so called concern citizens. They having protest and petition for Africans who want to America but none for this mother. Where is the black match for her. Where is the pressure to be put on the police to arrest the driver of the car? Guess Andrea Hughes don’t come with much political milage for.both parties so.she is not important

  9. Put yourself in the shoes of the family and the children. How can the police officers go to bed at night knowing they are or have done something so disgraceful. How can the COP Mr. Atlee Patrick Rodney look his family in the eyes and say he is upholding the laws of this nation without fear or favor. How can the Lawyer Mr. Hugh Marshal Jr. Look his family in the eyes knowing what game he is playing to circumvent the law. I mean I know God doesn’t sleep. And what goes around comes around. Everyone knows the famous court case of O.J. Simpson. His lawyer was very smart to get him off the hook and to be trialed for murder. But what happened to the smart Lawyer Johnnie Cochran. He died not long thereafter of a brain tumor. And yes O.J. Simpson still went to jail. I warn Mr. Marshal do not bring God’s wrath over you and your family. When things start going bad with you or your family member remember Adrea Hughes whom you have denied justice.
    And I know in our democratic system we have separation of powers; however, I hope our PM will inquire of the COP what the status is of this case. And put in a bit of a pressure on him to get something done.

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