President of the Grenada Bar Association Ruggles Ferguson has issued a firm call for urgent remedial action to deal with what he referred to as the deplorable condition of the Number Two Supreme Court.
Speaking to members of the media on Tuesday, hours after information surfaced that High Court judge Paula Gilford had refused to take the Bench to conduct court matters in light of the condition of the number two court, Ferguson said the situation had reached an unprecedented level of embarrassment. He urged those in authority to act with some level of urgency in dealing with the situation or a frightening number of matters will be generated on the already long list of backlog cases.
According to Ferguson, the court is presently grappling with over two hundred cases awaiting trial on the civil list assigned to one judge who is due to leave Grenada this weekend. Additionally, he said there are one hundred and thirty-two criminal cases awaiting trial, and therefore up to now there are one of the two criminal courts out of commission due to failure on the part of the authorities to address what he claimed is a year-old problem, is a cause for major concern.
Asked what were some of the concerns raised by the judge that would have influenced Monday’s boycott of the court and whether or not the authorities are aware of the situation Ferguson said some of the concerns had to do with mold in the building and other internal issues that seem to affect not only the judge but a number of staff members who complain of being sick as result of the poor condition of the court.
As it relates to knowledge of the situation, the Bar President said it is not a recent problem but has been around for years. Several discussions were held, he said but nothing has been done officially to address the situation.
The Bar Association Ferguson went on, was given the assurance that before the opening of the new law year in September of 2014, all the courts would have been moved to one location at the old Cable and Wireless building on the Carenage, however he said that has not materialized, and although Court #3 is presently housed in that location, the size of the court cannot accommodate jury trials.
Ferguson said the situation in which Grenada finds itself is a travesty for the criminal justice system given the fact that Grenada’s constitution clearly states that accused persons should be tried within a reasonable time. This charge he said heavily underpins on the notion that justice delayed is justice denied. The veteran lawyer went further to say, that although many lawyers prey on that weakness in the system to get their client(s) to walk free, for the accused man or woman who has been locked up in jail wrongfully for years awaiting trial, it cannot be justice.
Can the backlog of cases presently clogging the court system be addressed? Ferguson said the Grenada Bar Association has been leading the charge in seeking help through their parent body and although help is available, and in-fact was promised, there is presently no suitable courtroom to accommodate any additional Judge or Judges.
The Bar President said although they are aware of the present economic situation, it is high time that Grenada moves away from that responsive mode waiting until a Judge or someone protests, to a pro active mode, to avoid these embarrassing situations. It was said that the last time work was done on the number two court, was in response to a Judge’s refusal to conduct court matters.