Senator The Hon. Z. C. Allyson Maynard Gibson Qc
Attorney General And Minister Of Legal Affairs
At A Special Sitting Of The Court Of Appeal To Mark The Opening Of The Legal Year 2015 And To Report On Its Work During 2014
Thursday 29 January, 2015
“Access to justice implies a responsive decision by the judiciary within a reasonable time and cost. People expect they can turn to the legal system for a resolution. They are ‘hard-wired’ for justice. Access to justice affirms the rule of law, and promotes social stability.” Chief Justice Beverley McLaughlin
Madam President I recall that at a Special Sitting last year the opportunity was provided to thank Justices of Appeal Christopher Blackman and Stanley John and to welcome Justice of Appeal Jon Isaacs.
As we hold this annual special sitting in this new Court today, I thank you Madam President for being a visionary purpose driven Christian leader who recognizes the importance of the message in Habakkuk 2:2. You know that the Holy Spirit works through this Court as it pursues Justice – a spiritual concept – God’s work.
From day one Madam President you recognized the need to re-establish healthy respect for the justice system. I recall sentiments such as “civility has been restored” and “Courtesy, cooperation and respect between Judges and between Bench and Bar has been completely restored”. You recognizethat an harmonious relationship between all stakeholders in the administration of justice is critically important to our national development.
The careers of the members of this Court have been marked, among other things, by the pursuit of efficiency and accountability. This Court continues its trailblazing use of modern technology. I especially mention the Court’s user friendly website; the online posting of the Court’s calendar so that everyone knows the business being conducted; the timely posting of its Rulings andJudgments (the interpretation of which is aided by helpful headnotes); and annual setting of new records for number of matters disposed of by this Court. The Court’s recent practice direction that mandates representatives to point to sections of transcripts to be used will discontinue the wasteful practice of unnecessary copying transcripts(some hundreds of pages long).In recognition of the value of the Court of Appeal’s time that was disproportionately being used by such appeals, the Courtrepeatedly called for the revocation of the law on mandatory minimums. And recognizing the need for accused persons to be properly represented, this Court never ceased calling for an office of the public defender. Indubitably time saved the result of implementing these measures will lead to the timely disposition of even more matters.
Today, this Court, the final appellate Court for most litigantsin The Bahamas, sits in beautiful, well designed,new, state of the art accommodations- another part of the vision enunciated by Madam President.
Madam President I note and thank this Court for enhancing its school outreach program that has redefined “access to justice”. I believe that time will show that the personal “access” that this Court has given scores if not hundreds of young Bahamians (including in the Family Islands) at critical stages in their personal development has life changing impact.
It is clear that this Court understands its role in“affirming the rule of law, and promoting social stability.” It is also clear that in the forefront of this Court’s mind is the need to provide “responsive decisions by the judiciary within a reasonable time and cost”. It is also clear that this Court understands what Baron Bingham of Cornhill called the “Business of Judging”.
The respect and high esteem in which this Court is held is the result of visionary leadership and hard work of the Justices of Appeal. The modern and businesslike manner in which this Court works and the outer beauty of its accommodations have earned Regional respect and causesBahamians to lift our heads even higher to the rising sun. The manner in which this Courtworks positively impacts the national psyche.
It is my hope and prayer that all involved in the administration of justice will follow the example set by this Court. For litigants, the justice system is a unified whole. This Court continues to demonstrate that efficiency, transparency and accountability are attainable goals that the public have the right to expect of its judges. “When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers” – Proverbs 21v15.
The Office of the Attorney General will continue its efforts to improve efficiency, transparency and accountability. Among other things, we will continue to post on our website the VBI’s that have been presented and the outcomes of arraignments, bail applications and trials. I thank my Team at the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs led by the Permanent Secretary, the Director of Legal Affairs and the Actg. Director of Public Prosecutions. I also thank my Consultants Loren Klein, Cleopatra Christie and BernisPinder.
The updated Laws on Line website is being tested. Effective 2015 laws will be posted chronologically within a short period after Assent. Also in 2015 we expect to complete a consolidation exercise current to 2014.
Madam President may I point to some examples set by this Court that we hope other Courts in 2015 will follow:
· Starting Court on time
· Effective use of technology – I hope that serious consideration will be given to holding case management hearings and appointments to settle the record by videoconference and to insistence that documents be exchanged in digital format.
· The Production of an Annual Report to account for the Court’s performance. The public has the right to consider whether its investment in the justice system is producing effective results, including the timely delivery of Judgments.How can justice be done when Judges take more than 3 years to deliver Judgments?
Bahamians are entitled to expect that justice being done and seen to be done – in the most efficient and cost effective manner – is the central focus of all of our efforts. I return to the fine example set by this Court and in doing so hope that it will also inspire citizens to acknowledge and accept their role as stakeholders in our justice system.
Madam President the Executive thanks this Court for its leadership in embracing change and modern methods so that respect for the Rule of Law is manifest in The Bahamas. We thank you in advance for your continued support in assuring the same efficiencies throughout the entire Justice System.
Madam President, My Lords, as the world marks the manner of your bearing, may God continue to richly bless your deliberations and imbue all of the Bench with the gifts of wisdom, discernment and good health.