FREEPORT , Grand Bahama – At the opening of the Legal Year in the Northern Bahamas, the Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett, and the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Senator the Hon. Allyson Maynard Gibson, Q.C., led a march of legal professionals to a church service held at the Pro-Cathedral of Christ the King Church where they were inspired by a message from the Venerable Harry Bain, Rector and Archdeacon of The Northern Bahamas.
Following the church service, the group paraded to the Garnet Levarity Justice Centre where a reception was held in the Supreme Court Building. There, Sir Michael and the Attorney General brought brief remarks.
Sir Michael told members of the legal profession that it was the seventh time that he had come to Freeport in January to participate in the ceremony in the Northern District. He said he always enjoyed coming to Grand Bahama because it gave him the opportunity to see friends that he would not normally see during the course of the year.
He thanked the large gathering of lawyers, magistrates, judges and others involved in the justice system for their attendance adding that “I really do hope that this tradition continues and you really don’t ever let it stop.”
Sir Michael revealed that he was demitting office at the end of the month, a difficult decision he said, but one he needed to make for himself and his family.
He noted, “I have enjoyed being the Chief Justice of The Bahamas. I have enjoyed being the Attorney General before then. But I enjoyed the fellowship and the camaraderie that I have had with all of you. There has been much that we have accomplished, but there is a heck a lot more for us to do, and I assure you that nothing can happen without the cooperation and support of both the Bench and the Bar.
“I encourage you to continue to work for the efficient administration of justice. It is so very, very important to the success of our democracy,” he said.
While thanking members of the legal profession for all the support they have given him over the years, Sir Michael told the gathering that “I am not going into the sunset! I will remain apart of the profession, and as I said to my colleagues on Wednesday past, I am committed to assisting in mentoring those lawyers who have recently been called to the Bar.”
Attorney General the Hon. Allyson Maynard Gibson said the gathering represented a most important period in the year when members in the legal profession come together at the beginning of the year to reflect on the past and think about the things that they are going to do as colleagues to impact the rule of law in The Bahamas, which is a democracy.
She mentioned that in 2012 when she became Attorney General one of her first visits was with her friend the Chief Justice, a man she has known for almost fifty years.
“We talked about what we would do together, because the judiciary and the executive must be seen to be working together, and we spoke about the principles of Swift Justice.
“We recognize that crime and the fear of crime were then and still are paramount concerns, forefront in the minds of our people, and people are concerned about the perception of a revolving door on bail.
“I was able to say at the opening the Legal Year on Wednesday and I say now, that through cooperation with the judiciary, moving in the right direction, the time for presentation of Voluntary Bill of Indictment has gone down from 344 days to 78 days,” she stated.
Further, the Attorney General said that in 2012 the Supreme Court disposed of 118 matters and in 2014 disposed of 200 matters.
“Yes you can see that yes we do have a lot further to go but we are moving in the right direction,” she said, while acknowledging the reports which indicate that the most efficient part of the courts are in Grand Bahama and that Senior Justice Longley ought to be congratulated,” she said.
The Attorney General also advised that they have made a decision this year to revamp the Northern Bahamas office.
“A part of that obviously must be looking at the judicial infrastructure. This building, we hope to have another judge here in Grand Bahama, a third one that is, and also our Magistrate’s Court as well,” she said while pointing out that it is a matter for the Chief Justice.
She went on to describe Sir. Michael as someone who loves the law, and a natural for the position of Chief Justice because of his intellectual powers, his integrity and his legal acumen, but most importantly his deep love of justice.
“I believe the Chief Justice has served us for the past five years in a most accomplished manner and CJ we are most grateful for the service,” she told Sir Michael to an applauding audience.
Mrs. Maynard Gibson agreed that things can happen for the best when the Bench and the Bar work together.
“So I am hoping that all of us as colleagues — those at the Private Bar and those who work in the Office of the Attorney General, and those on the Bench, think out of the box and find creative ways to make a difference,” she said.