CHIEF JUSTICE: Judges do not live in ivory towers

CHIEF JUSTICE: Judges do not live in ivory towers

Chief Justice slams attacks on judiciary as “unhelpful”

Bar Association President demands full FOIA, says “no place for rape in Bahamian society or marriages”

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Chief Justice Sir Ian Winder said yesterday that attacks on the local judiciary are “unhelpful,” noting that the courts are not responsible for all that ails the Bahamian justice system.

Justice Winder made the remarks at a ceremony yesterday marking the opening of the legal year.

“It is unhelpful to attack the judiciary and suggest that the courts are responsible for all that ails the criminal justice system or that we are not completing trials,” he said.

“Not only is this suggestion wholly inaccurate but it ignores the known realities in the criminal courts and in our country. In the past year, a considerable amount of nolles have been entered by the office of the Department of Public Prosecutions. Most of these have been entered after the trial has begun or on the morning when the trials commenced often causing considerable loss of court days.”

Winder said: “Judges do not live in ivory towers or hold cloistered views of the country in which we live. We attend the same stores, churches, and public places as every member of the society. Our children and our families live in this society and we love this country as much as everyone else. We want our communities to be safe and crime to be at an irreducible minimum.

Chief Justice Winder noted that he has established a case backlog reduction committee and a criminal case management reform committee to provide recommendations for improvement of the criminal justice system.

The Chief Justice acknowledged that criminal trials are taking much longer than they used to and agreed that good management of a trial by the judge can lead to a more efficient criminal trial.

He also noted however that there are many other reasons why the criminal trial process has become lengthier. Chief Justice Winder noted that not all criminal cases should proceed to trial and urged stakeholders to explore meaningful ways to implement proper alternative dispute resolution.

For his part, Bahamas Bar Association President Kahlil Parker said the association has consistently urged and demanded a public commitment to transparency.

“Full implementation of the Freedom of Information Act is no longer merely an aspiration but it represents the bare minimum required to demonstrate a true commitment to transparency to deliver to the Bahamian people the meaningful right to the scrutiny they deserve,” Parker said.

He added: “We also welcome the government’s commitment to addressing the longstanding and vexing issue of the discriminatory and arbitrary treatment of the children of Bahamians and their access to Bahamian citizenship which is their birthright. For the avoidance of any doubt, there is no place for rape in Bahamian society or marriages.”