The President of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Lord David Neuberger, says the London based court is happy to continue hearing appeals from countries in the Caribbean.
But according to Lord Neuberger, that welcome is conditional on Caribbean states being willing to come to the Privy Council for the hearing of the appeals.
His comments were in response to last week’s declaration from Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne told his countrymen that they would be better off replacing the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice, CCJ.
Antigua and Barbuda is preparing for a referendum in May to determine whether the country should abandon the UK based Privy Council and adopt the CCJ as its final court of appeal.
A three month public education campaign began on March 10, with Prime Minister Gaston Browne making clear that the country would be better off without the Privy Council.
But during a video presentation at the Youth Forum of the CCJ’s Education Campaign over the weekend, Lord Neuberger said the Privy Council is willing to hear cases from Antigua and Barbuda and other Judicial Committee of the Privy Council or JCPC jurisdictions.
He said that the London based lawlords know that there are a number of countries that are considering withdrawing from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
Lord Neuberger says the JCPC will be sorry to see them go, but appreciates that it’s entirely a matter for them to decide according to their democratic processes.
Last week Prime Minister Browne told his countrymen that Antigua and Barbuda could be kicked out of the Privy Council if the public does not vote to replace the court voluntarily in the upcoming referendum.
He also warned that staying with the centuries-old court could pervert justice, if it continues to reduce the time spent on hearing cases brought by persons from the Caribbean.
But in his presentation Lord Neuberger said the Privy Council is taking steps to address issues surrounding the high costs and difficulties of many potential appellants in accessing the court.
Lord Neuberger acknowledged that these are some of the key obstacles faced by persons from the Caribbean when attempting to utilise the court’s services.
He revealed that the Privy Council was piloting a video link facility, so that hearings can occur over the Internet, at a time that is convenient for the local jurisdiction.
Lord Neuberger says once this service is in place, it will help reduce costs and eliminate travelling time for parties from the Caribbean in accessing the London based court.
He also spoke of the itinerant nature of the Privy Council’s judges, noting that they are indeed willing to travel to member countries to hear their cases.
Jamaica could also use a referendum to decide whether to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ.
The governing JLP has been adamant that a referendum is the only option where the matter is concerned, while the Opposition PNP has put much work into seeking the change through an act of parliament.