By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE additional criminal courts initially scheduled for use at the beginning of this year will not be trying matters until January, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson said yesterday.
Speaking to The Tribune at the Court of Appeal’s special sitting ceremony that saw two appellate judges retire and a Supreme Court judge elevated, Mrs Maynard-Gibson said the courts will not open until the start of the new legal year.
“The reason for that is December 15, around there, the court will adjourn for the Christmas holidays and the new session will start with the opening of the new legal year in January,” she said.
“I’m satisfied that at that time, it is expected that we will see trials held in that building. The good news is that the building is open right now. There are two judges that are operating out of the building, Justices Roger Gomez and Ian Winder.”
She explained that the two judges were not hearing cases but are “occupying the building and they are hearing matters like the preparation for cases and so forth, it’s ongoing, case management and other matters that are pre-trial”.
She said: “I really want to thank the judges of the Supreme Court, and most especially the chief justice. Everybody is deeply concerned that the system be seen to work and I want to say that there’s been tremendous collaboration in ensuring that the resources are brought to bear and that the processes are tweaked completely amended where necessary so that we can bring our system into the 21st century.”
Two weeks ago, before heading into a cabinet meeting, Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez said the government has done “everything humanly possible” to speed up trials and expects the judiciary to do its job.
The new courts, on Bank Lane, are in the building that previously housed a magistrate’s court and the police prosecutions office as well as the Ansbacher Building.
These are expected to add to the six criminal courts currently in use.
At the new legal year opening ceremony earlier this year, Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett had cautioned the government on the “dictatorial impression” it created in announcing a plan to have ten criminal courts run simultaneously in 2014.
Sir Michael said that any increase in the number of criminal courts would require more persons to serve as jurors and potential jurors would find that judges will be less inclined to excuse them from jury duty as judges have done in the past.