“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” stated the great Martin Luther King Jr. Thousands of cases are languishing in the court system for decades despite the degree of severity in such matters. It is therefore quite laughable for the judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago, to have as part of its vision, a statement that it “provides an accountable court system in which timeliness and efficiency are the hallmarks… attracting public trust and confidence.”
Rather than work assiduously to address the ills of the justice system, finger-pointing seems the solution! Where is the focus on efficiency in the judicial system?
Having someone wait for many years to have a simple obscene charge be adjudicated upon is absolutely preposterous, to say the least. How many attorneys and judges have been championing efficiency in the legal system?
Each defence or time that a matter is called, means financial gain for some and loss of assets for others.
The Constitution provides for both the Chief Justice (CJ) and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to administer justice in Trinidad and Tobago, so it is beyond grievous to see the public spat between them. There have always been suggestions that according to the great playwright Shakespeare, “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” regarding justice in Trinidad and Tobago. Why does the DPP seemingly take so long to address certain matters but deals with alacrity with others?
Whether the bickering is insignificant or not, it is instructive that these two key offices of the justice system should see it fit to point fingers at each other, unmindful of the oft-used expression that “pointing a finger at someone leaves three pointing at you”. Unequivocally, this unadulterated display of egos shows utter disdain for justice and concretises the view that the judicial system is close to collapsing if it has not.
Being a department within the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs (MoAGLA) why has there been a perennial cry from the DPPs office for resources, especially staff?
Despite being independent, the judiciary is also dependent upon the Government to provide resources, making the Government also complicit in the failure or near failure, rather than preservation of justice in Trinidad and Tobago.
It is therefore incumbent upon the Government to not only admit but play a more significant role in the administration of justice in Trinidad and Tobago. Having being created by the Constitution, it should be revisited to remove the CJ from being the chairman of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC).
The JLSC should be constitutionally reconstituted to comprise no more than seven members, four being from the public service, which will also have the chairmanship and three from the legal entities, one being the CJ, another from the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago and the third being the DPP. The intention being the removal of any perceived subjectivity in decisioning regarding justice.
The CJ must focus very strenuously on dealing with undue delays in hearing matters and the lengthy wait for judgments by judges and magistrates.
Why should court matters begin at 9 a.m. and end by noon or 2 p.m.?
Normal working hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. What makes the judges and magistrates different?
If the intention is for writing judgments, the system has very clearly failed. The Pratt and Morgan judgment specifies that carrying out a death sentence after five years constitutes cruel and inhuman punishment, so the CJ should seek to implement a corresponding system for matters, which are languishing for ten or more years.
Unless serious efforts are made to address these initiatives dealing with the judiciary, the office of the director of public prosecutions, the very important role of the MoAGLA and a reconstituted JLSC, we will continue to “spin top in mud” and have squabbles amongst key entities in the judicial system because the infrastructure is absent and the perception that justice is precipitously close to failure will soon become reality.
Egos must be subsumed within common sense and a genuine desire for justice. After all, the legal maxim articulates that ”justice delayed is justice denied.” More importantly, the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs and by extension, the Government must not behave like the biblical Pontius Pilate and “wash its hands” from the sordid state of justice in T&T. Let good sense prevail!