Law Association: Transparency must correct ‘unfair’ comments on Judiciary

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Hall of Justice, Port of Spain. –

THE Law Association (LATT) says recent comments made by the Trinidad and Tobago chapter of Transparency International (TTTI) that the Judiciary is “riddled with political interference…frequently susceptible to bribery” are unfair and unjustifiable.

The association is calling for the statement to be corrected.

On January 30, Transparency International issued its 2023 Corruption Perception Index, which claimed the Judiciary had not fulfilled its role to keep other branches of government in check.

It said, “A country’s failed judiciary, entrenched in corruption, negatively impacts the quality of life of citizens as persons are hesitant to avail themselves of its services for fear of retributions. Therefore, under an ineffectual judiciary, corruption will continue to thrive thus devastating the country as a whole.”

The Judiciary, in a release, has since rejected these claims.

And on Monday, LATT issued a press release saying apart from the “relatively low score” of 42 out of 100, TT was not specifically mentioned.

“That notwithstanding, the TTTI’s chairman Donna Jack-Hill, in her address…made remarks which suggested that this year’s results focused on the weakening of the TT’s judiciary and the Judiciary’s consequential failure to control corruption or to fulfil its role as a crucial check on other branches of government.”

LATT said these comments gave the impression the report included “a broad-brush condemnation of the TT Judiciary.

“However, it is not apparent to the Law Association how these comments about the Judiciary are fair or justified.”

It added that TT is in the process of achieving many of the goals outlined in the report, including strengthening the independence of justice systems, introducing integrity and monitoring mechanisms and improving access to justice, among other things.

“There are, of course, challenges,” it added.

“LATT is on record through its 2017 report on the Judicial and Legal Service

Commission reform, with proposals for comprehensive reforms to the system for appointing judges.

“Further, the Judiciary is still struggling to achieve financial autonomy from the Central Government. This plight is shared by other agencies, such as the Integrity Commission and the Equal Opportunity Commission.”

LATT said TT must do better in providing transparency, adding that it supports the TTTI’s call for whistleblower and campaign finance legislation.

“Critical institutions, such as the Judiciary, must be subject to scrutiny. However, no useful purpose is served by unfair or unfounded criticisms of our country’s critical institutions.

“One of the LATT’s functions is to promote, maintain, and support the administration of justice and the rule of law. By extension, it must also defend the Judiciary against unwarranted attacks.”

It said it “deplores” the TTTI’s comments and asked for a “statement correcting the false impression that its statement may have given to the public.”