Saturday, January 20, 2018

Decades-old cases clogging justice system

Judiciary responds three months after request for outstanding judgments...


THE judiciary, in a delayed response to a Freedom of Informa­tion (FOI) request filed by the Sunday Express, has confirmed there are several decades-old cases still clogging up the justice system.

Last September, the Sunday Express requested of the FOI a list of all outstanding judgments from the High Court and Court of Appeal, together with the date the case was originally filed, the date the judgment was reserved and the names of the judges assigned to the matter.

On November 8, weeks after the 30-day response period elapsed, the judiciary provided its first response, but omitted to provide details and requested an extension.

The Sunday Express called the judiciary on four different occasions seeking an update, and on December 19 was eventually furnished with the final response.

According to the response by the judiciary, as of August 31, 2016, judgment has been reserved in ten matters.

In civil matters for the same period, judgment was reserved in nine matters.

In the Family Court, there are 28 matters in which judgment was reserved.

One civil matter between Herbert Sylvester and the Attorney General was filed since 2005, with judgment reserved in June 2016.

The Court of Appeal reserved judgment in the 2006 criminal case of Deochan Ganga v The State.

A decade later, judgment is still outstanding.

Waiting on justice for 14 years


In another matter, Deenish Benjamin filed his criminal appeal in 2006 and ten years later, his appeal is not finished as the Court of Appeal reserved judgment in 2014 but is yet to deliver it.

Again on the civil side, judgment has been outstanding for over seven years in a case involving Motor & General Insurance Company Ltd, which is now in compulsory liquidation.

Further checks by the Sunday Express at the Court Registry and on the judiciary's website revealed some cases have been awaiting justice for over 14 years.

In 2003, then firefighter Michael Dindayal filed a constitutional motion claiming discrimination.

Judgment was delivered in that matter in 2008, but his appeal took another seven years and judgment was reserved on July 8, 2015, which is still outstanding.

In another matter, Dukaran Dha­ban, who has a case against the Port Authority, has been waiting for justice for over 12 years.

His case was originally filed in 2005. Dhaban won his trial in the High Court in 2007, but the Port Authority appealed the decision in 2011. That appeal was heard in 2015 and judgment was reserved but has not been delivered by the Court of Appeal to date.

Checks with senior attorneys have revealed the list provided by the Court of Appeal might actually be incomplete as there are several other matters in which there are outstanding judgments for prolonged periods that are not mentioned.

At the High Court, there is a slightly shorter delay of eight to ten years.

This list provided by the judiciary also appears to be incomplete, with several attorneys again indicating they have judgments outstanding in ca­ses that are not on the list, specifically, the 2004 case involving two Barbadian fishermen caught fishing illegally in local waters. This matter has remained in limbo for 13 years.

At the Family Court, there are as many as 40 outstanding judgments in divorce and matrimonial cases, some of which are over five years old.

Another judge has over 11 outstanding judgments, and some of those cases have been in the system for over eight years.

The Sunday Express contacted president of the Law Association Reginald Armour, who indicated he wanted to make a comment on the issue of the slow pace of the judicial system.

Armour requested that questions be emailed to him and the Sunday Express complied.

He also asked to see the judiciary's response to the FOI, and the Sunday Express dropped those documents off at his private office last Friday.

Armour is yet to respond.