Judge condemns delays in justice system

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Frank Seepersad –

A High Court judge has condemned the delays in the justice system.

Delivering a ruling on Tuesday, outspoken judge Frank Seepersad directed blows at the Judiciary, accusing it of “adopting questionable stances which do not necessarily aid the efficacious determination of matters.”

He spoke of the “insistence” on contract positions, which, he said, led to regular staff turnover and lack of experienced court staff.

Seepersad also spoke of the closure of courts, including the “abrupt” closure of the San Fernando High Court “without consultation with judges or stakeholders and the failure and/or refusal to provide viable and use able interim facilities from which in-person San Fernando matters can be engaged, are actions which severely undermine access to justice and interferes with the ability of judicial officers to deal with matters efficiently.”

He said the situation was unacceptable.

“It is evident that a rigorous revisit and revamp of existing institutional processes, policies and procedures are urgently required.

“The time for dialogue has ended, meaningful action, engagement, transparency and accountability is desperately required to improve the dispensation of justice in the best interest of all citizens of this republic.

“This court cannot and will not turn a blind eye to the crisis which now characterises the criminal justice system.”

Last month, the Assembly of Southern Lawyers (ASL) raised as a concern the temporary closure of the Supreme Court in San Fernando without consultation with its members.

In a response to the assembly’s concerns published in a Newsday article on August 28, the Judiciary said it had held discussions on the state of court buildings and the closure of the San Fernando Supreme Court building with the Law Association, “the statutorily recognised representative body for lawyers in TT.”

However, ASL’s president Michael Rooplal wrote to the association’s president for clarification on the consultation between LATT and the Judiciary since, he said, it gave the impression that attorneys were not told of the discussions.

“It also insinuates that the council of the LATT may not be seeking the best interests of its members, particularly those in San Fernando.

“The ASL has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the LATT over the years, and said the relationship has been premised on our mutual objectives to safeguard the interests of our members and to promote the effective and efficient administration of justice.”

In a response, LATT president Lynette Seebaran-Suite, SC, said its senior members met with the Chief Justice and his team in July and among the topics raised were access to justice and the unsatisfactory state of various court buildings.

She said during a general discussion, the association was told the Judiciary was consulting with Udecott on the leaking at the San Fernando courthouse and there was an intention to tender for repairs to the building.

“This exchange cannot be reasonably interpreted as consultation on the closure of the San Fernando Court with LATT, as neither firm plans nor time lines were shared with LATT in advance (or at the meeting) so that we could have formulated a response, including consultation with your good selves.”