September 28, 2016

Caribbean justice system is broken

Dear Editor,
Headlines in Guyana’s newspapers “after 40 years woman 88 still awaits division of property, eight years later former NBS boss, family still await justice.”
These are only two of the hundreds of cases in Guyana where litigants are being deprived of justice.  Justice delayed is justice denied.
One of the region’s top judges has criticised the judicial system in most countries of the region and described it as “broken”. Justice Adrian Saunders of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) said the people in the region “deserve a whole lot better and it is incumbent upon those who work in the justice sector to work towards the improvement”
Justice Saunders and a team of legal experts last week attended a workshop in St Vincent which identified several weaknesses in the legal system. The Canadian government is spending $40 million in improving the justice system in several areas including the quality of justice delivery. One project is called JURIST being administered by the CCJ. It is acronym for Judicial Research and institutional strengthening, and the other is IMPACT, spearheaded by the University of the West Indies (UWI) .
It is a well-known fact that the judiciary (including the magistracy) is not operating as efficient as possible and sometimes it takes several years for cases to be fully determined.
The JURIST project has been aimed at tackling the number one complaint Caribbean people have about courts in the region – inefficiency, long delays in the hearing of cases and a huge case backlog.
To this end training is being arranged for judges and magistrates and embarking on a number of pilot initiatives in the civil justice sphere in Grenada, Guyana, Belize.
IMPACT on the other hand looks at the supporting infrastructure – the police, the AG’s office, law reporting, updating of laws, professional development of the legal profession, etc.
Let’s hope that the Canadian funds will be properly spent and we see improvement in our judicial system. Twenty-five years ago the United States government spent millions of dollars in a project called the Caribbean Justice Improvement Project (CJIP) in updating law libraries, court houses, and even financing the revising of the laws in several countries including Guyana, and S. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Sincerely,
Oscar Ramjeet

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