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Dr. Francis Alexis

Grenadian jurist questions Privy Council’s sincerity

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Mar 19, CMC – A prominent Grenadian jurist is questioning the sincerity of the United Kingdom Privy Council (UKPC) in calling on Caribbean countries to reconsider leaving the court in favour of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

Last week, UKPC president Lord Neuberge in a video presentation at the Youth Forum of the CCJ Education Campaign, said “so far as we are concerned, we are very happy to continue hearing those appeals, as long as those countries wish to come to us for their appeals to be decided.

“We are aware that there are a number of countries that are considering withdrawing from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. We will be sorry to see them go, but we appreciate that it’s entirely a matter for them to decide according to their democratic processes,” he added.

Alexis, a former attorney general in Grenada and law lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in a statement released here, recalled that when the Jamaican Parliament passed three Acts to quit UKPC and join CCJ, the Privy Council in 2005, “struck them down for not having been passed in accordance with the procedure fit for altering entrenched provisions of the Constitution.

“UKPC would not say what was that procedure. UKPC asked the lawyers for written submissions on the matter, but, having gotten these, UKPC still would not say. Instead, amazingly anticipating speculatively that sometime in the future governmental misbehaviour in Jamaica might result in the CCJ Agreement being violated, UKPC preserved its jurisdiction over Jamaica.”

Alexis said that in the judgement that has long been “criticised as being one in which UKPC went slipping and sliding out of orthodox principles, UKPC said it had no interest of its own to serve.

“No one had at the time so accused UKPC. Later that year, though, for the first time, UKPC sat outside of London; going to The Bahamas, and holding court there; repeating the trip later. From Nassau, UKPC made a pitch to be allowed to stay in the Caribbean. That pitch, Neuberger, from London, renewed this week.”

He said that the UKPC has implicitly acknowledging that the costs of appeals to it “make such appeals a wild dream for most Caribbeaners,

“Neuberger said that UKPC would be looking to reduce those costs. Of course, even if that promise were to be kept, those costs might, in short time, be again restored to their historically prohibitive heights.

“After all, Neuberger’s predecessor in 2009, Lord Phillips, complained that Caribbean cases were taking up a disproportionate amount of UKPC time, and called upon Caribbean countries to get their own final appellate court.

“So, postures in some quarters of UKPC keep changing, as to how soon Caribbean countries should quit imperial premises, and also as to what Caribbean constitutional law should be. Such inconstancy imposed imperiously from outside does not promote development, it causes bewilderment,” the Grenadian jurist noted.

He said that Neuberger told Antiguans that UKPC is an itinerant court.

But Alexis said that the itinerancy of UKPC began and ended with the few trips UKPC made to The Bahamas and as Barbadian prominent jurist, Sir David Simmons noted “those trips had to be paid for by The Bahamas.

“The Bahamas not chalking up money for further tropical forays, UKPC abandoned itinerancy as quickly as it embarked upon same. Here, too, then, there is that inconstancy on the part of UKPC towards the Caribbean<’ Alexis said.

He said that it is the CCJ that should be regarded as an itinerant court, noting that since it was launched in 2005, the Trinidad-based court has gone to several countries including Barbados, Belize, Guyana and Jamaica.

He said while the UKPC is promising a pilot video link project between UKPC and the Caribbean, “all these centuries, UKPC never provided training to talk about for Caribbean judges, nor equipment for Caribbean courts.

“By contrast, in the ten years CCJ has been around, CCJ has been doing all this, seeing to the installing of   video link equipment in several courts. Nor may one forget that inconstancy which characterises UKPC approaches to the Caribbean…”.

The Grenadian jurist said that given what transpired in the case of Jamaica in its attempt to join the CCJ “to that must now be added the idea of Neuberger dangling before the Antiguans those promises just when the Antiguans are about to set out on the road to their referendum.

“That Lord Neuberger made the presentation he did, at the relevant time, is surely something to ponder.

Moreover, what, if the Antiguans pass an Act to substitute CCJ for UKPC, and its validity is challenged all the way to UKPC? Might it be that, in such a case, some UKPC judges would consider recusing themselves?

“Can there be a convincing explanation of the kind called for by Sir David Simmons regarding the seemingly irreconcilable divide between Lords Phillip and Neuberger? On such matters, UKPC would be stretched, after Neuberger,” Alexis said.