The key architect of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has called for an explanation by the Privy Council, as to why its justices have changed their position on allowing Commonwealth nations to access its court.
Sir David Simmons, who is also the former Attorney General and former Chief Justice of Barbados, made the call for the clarification after the President of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Lord David Neuberger announced last week that Antigua & Barbuda was welcome to stay with the judiciary.
“The Privy Council has a duty to explain to the people of Antigua & Barbuda, how this position differs from that adopted by the first President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Lord Phillips in 2009,” Sir David stated.
Lord Neuberger said that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) countries were welcome to stay with the judiciary, if they so desire and that plans were under way to assist these nations in accessing the court.
Lord Neuberger’s remarks were made in a pre-recorded interview, last week, during the Youth Forum education campaign — part of a three-month movement to adopt the CCJ as the island’s final court of appeal.
But the UK judge’s comments were quite contradictory to those published by BBC Caribbean, in 2009, when Lord Nicholas Phillips said Law Lords on the Privy Council were spending a ‘disproportionate’ amount of time on cases from former colonies, mostly in the Caribbean.
He added that “in an ideal world” Commonwealth countries — including those in the Caribbean — would stop using the Privy Council and, instead, set up their own final courts of appeal.
According to Sir David, what was more alarming is that the former UK judge had considered drafting Court of Appeal judges to take some of the pressure off their Supreme Court.
The former Barbados Chief Justice also said that the Privy Council’s claim of attempting to improve accessibility to its justice system is just a façade.
“They made an attempt two years ago to go up to the Bahamas – they did go up to the Bahamas – at great expense to the Bahamian Government, as an attempt to suggest that they were going to make justice more accessible to people from the region but they have not been back since because it was too costly for the Bahamian Government,” Sir David said.
Sir David believes that Lord Phillips was sincere, in that judges had found themselves burdened by issues that “didn’t really resonate with them”.
They are more concerned about being members of the European community, he added.