With at least 5 of the 11 Supreme Court Justices having been educated at Cambridge (and 4 at Oxford), it is not surprising for the Supreme Court to get a mention at one of  the many events  celebrating the 800th anniversary of Cambridge University this year.

What gave this occasion particular relevance was that the dinner took place at the British High Commissioner’s residence in Jamaica. The debate sparked by Lord Phillips about the “disproportionate” amount of Privy Council work that may be allocated to the Supreme Court remains a hot topic .  The Jamaican Observer gave particular prominence to the comments of the well known civil liberties barrister, Lord Gifford QC (right).   

He has practised both in England and Jamaica for many years. Lord Gifford suggested a close understanding of Lord Phillips’s perspective, when he reminded the gathering that they had not only been close friends at Cambridge, but that Lord Phillips had been his best man at his first wedding. 

The veteran advocate added his voice to those in favour of a greater role for the Caribbean Court of Justice, and urged the Jamaican government to consider a quick referendum on the issue.

As the debate continues, it is important to note that the quality of justice from London is not the issue – far from it. It is the symbolism of a UK Court  – the former colonial master – having the final say, that many find objectionable.

Reginald Dumas, in his well-read column in the Trinidad Express, analysed the issue with care this week. He ended in forceful terms which went to the heart of Caribbean constitutional identity:

“What new excuses will we come up with to justify our limpet-like attachment to the coattails of people who so plainly find us a nuisance? Do we have no self-respect and self-confidence at all? What will we do when, not if, London formally tells us to take a hike? When will we achieve true independence, the independence of the mind? Will we ever?”

It is not surprising that this debate has re-surfaced recently. Perhaps now, more than ever, those of us in the UK can appreciate how the symbolism of where the highest court is located, is something to be taken seriously.  

 The point is also taken up the Caribbean Star, in an article headed “The region yearns for its own appellant court but it also yearns for justice!”  Dame Bernice V Lake QC tells readers in St Lucia that

What the region needs is not the words of Lord Phillips, not a call to move on with the CCJ; it needs a call to find Daniels who can disengage from their propinquity with Governments, and take the courts out of the syndrome of being another agent of the executive arm of government.



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