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Archaic court buildings violating health & safety stds.– CJ Pereira

- says judiciary vulnerable in dependence on Executive
Court buildings within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have been described by Her Ladyship the Hon. Chief Justice Dame Janice M. Pereira, DBE as archaic and have been seen as violating basic health and safety standards. Photo: VINO
She felt the provision of adequate facilities will result in reducing delays caused by the deficiencies and argued that these would create additional space to allow for more simultaneous sittings of the court in order to decrease the backlog of cases. Photo: VINO/File
She felt the provision of adequate facilities will result in reducing delays caused by the deficiencies and argued that these would create additional space to allow for more simultaneous sittings of the court in order to decrease the backlog of cases. Photo: VINO/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – Court buildings within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have been described by Her Ladyship the Hon. Chief Justice Dame Janice M. Pereira, DBE as archaic and have been seen as violating basic health and safety standards.

While relating some of the challenges faced by the judiciary during her address on the occasion of the opening of the 2013/2014 Law year yesterday, September 18, 2013, the first female Chief Justice of the OECS said this cannot continue unchecked as the consequences to society can be dire.

“The issue of proper accommodation is critical in most of our member states and territories. Indeed it is true to say, that in several of our states, the court buildings are archaic and were certainly not designed for the uses to which they are being put,” she said.

“Many may properly be described,” she added, “as being in a condition which violates basic health and safety standards.”

According to Justice Pereira, “This is adversely affecting the health of court office staff and our judicial officers which has in turn led to loss of productivity. Such situations cannot be allowed to continue unchecked.”

She felt the provision of adequate facilities will result in reducing delays caused by the deficiencies and argued that these would create additional space to allow for more simultaneous sittings of the court in order to decrease the backlog of cases.

The Virgin Gorda native said this would be a welcome change since most of the court facilities barely have adequate facilities for the present complement of judicial officers.

Court working through challenges

Justice Pereira also said the time is right to look at the structure of court offices. She argued that it was necessary to examine the functionality of court officers in an effort to attain a more cohesive structure which in turn will ensure a greater efficiency and effectiveness of court offices and instil greater public confidence in the justice system.

Her Ladyship added, “Being aware that the development of the law has a direct impact on the values on society and the strides that we make as a region, the initiatives embarked on by the court have been geared at ensuring that at all times, the court as hard as possible is discharging its responsibilities.”

She further noted that the duty owed to the services of the region is not negated by the challenges the court faces. Consequently, despite its challenges over the past year, the Court has continued its reform initiatives.

Judiciary vulnerable in dependence on Executive

“The dependence of our court offices on the Executive to provide needed resources and budget essentials, sometimes hamper the everyday functioning and efficiency, thus demanding a greater level of creativity and initiative on the part of those who manage our court offices,” Justice Pereira said. She noted that this dependence gives rise to vulnerability and an encroachment into the judicial sphere.

Justice Pereira said the question must be asked, “How can the judiciary as an institution be truly independent if it does not have some level of true financial independence?”

The time is right, she added, to undertake a critical examination of the current approach and to objectively assess whether it employs the best safeguards at the court’s disposal for ensuring the levels of efficiency and accountability within the framework and context of judicial independence.

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