Lord Phillips’ remarks about the Privy Council – discussed in this blog last week have launched a lively debate in the Caribbean about the role of the Caribbean Court of Justice (“CCJ”).  This is the Court intended to replace the Privy Council for the Caribbean but which is only used by two countries.

In Jamaica, a former Attorney-General, A J Nicholson of the opposition People’s National Party, called a press conference to say he was ashamed at foot-dragging on the CCJ.  He called on the Government to table the required legislation in Parliament to revive the process of delinking from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and to have the CCJ as the final court of appeal.  This was reported in the Jamaica Observer and the Gleaner. 

Mr Nicholson was a member of the Government which tried to replace the Privy Council by the CCJ in 2004.  Unfortunately, the Privy Council itself held that three Acts of the Jamaican Parliament, designed to give domestic effect to an international agreement setting up the CCJ were not enacted in accordance with the procedure required for the amendment of entrenched provisions of the Constitution and were, accordingly, void (see Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights v Attorney-General for Jamaica [2005] UKPC 3.

However, in Trinidad, the leader of the opposition, Basdeo Panday said  that the number of cases that go before the Privy Council the Caribbean actually show the need for having the archaic UK court continue to serve as their highest court of appeal: because there is not enough confidence the domestic courts.  His remarks are reported in Trinidad News.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, the former Prime Minister has argued for rejecting a proposed new constitution precisely because it rejects appeals to the Privy Council.  His views are discusssed in Searchlight Newspaper.

Many of these articles can be found on the the CCJ blog (maintained by a Jamaican lawyer in Canada, Deidre Powell).  It is conducting an online survey which, presently shows (on the basis of 332 votes) that 52% favour Jamaica replacing the Privy Council with the CCJ as its final court of appeal. Unfortunately, since the original post, this blog has become “invitation only” so it is no longer possible to follow the progress of the poll.  The issues are also discussed on the i On Global Trends blog.  According to another Trinidad commentator, Peter Richards, Lord Phillips has “rekindled the debate” the “colonial era Court”.

The debate is an interesting one with the proponents of national independence on the one side and those who might be described as “realists” on the other.  The latter are well represented by a comment posted on the CCJ blog which says

Listen man, we are a poor country. We have free access to the Privy Council of well respected Judges who don’t mix up in politics. Why we do we want to take on the expense and hassle of the CCJ? Our local court system slow and our hospitals need improvement. Money should be spent on these essential services.

The debate is not over yet.

Tags: , , , ,