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Optimism Over Judicial Reform

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Elsworth Johnson

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

STATE Minister for Legal Affairs Elsworth Johnson said yesterday he is optimistic the Minnis administration would carry out the promises it gave to the judiciary prior to the general election.

Responding to questions by the press outside of Cabinet on Tuesday, Mr Johnson also said he was of the belief that the matters addressed by the government as it relates to the judiciary in its Speech from the Throne would be adhered to this term.

Noting the legacy ailments of the judiciary, Mr Johnson, an attorney by profession, insisted that the shortcomings could not go on and needed to be addressed immediately.

Over the summer, several cases were adjourned due to a malfunctioning air-conditioning unit at the Magistrates' Court complex.

At one point, the waiting areas of the court complex had to be constantly mopped due to condensation from the faulty airconditioning system.

Commenting Tuesday, Mr Johnson said the executive branch of government has a responsibility to the judiciary to ensure that efficient and adequate facilities are provided, to protect the "stability" of the country.

He stated: "So far as the state of affairs exist, there is an obligation on the part of the government to directly address and see how best we can handle these issues. I recall when I recently practised, it rained, it was hot, mould, there were a number of things. We have to look at those things objectively."

Mr Johnson added: "That is one of the reasons why I joined the Free National Movement, the direct interference in the judiciary and the promise to deal with those things. I know that my prime minister is proactive and that is the most I would like to say about that."

Complaints of structural issues at the various courts are not new and have been documented over the years.

In late October 2013, there was a plumbing issue that caused sewage back up for two days at the multi-million-dollar South Street and Nassau Street court complex that was officially opened in January 2012.

Cases were adjourned due to the partial flooding in the foyer and cellblock of the compound that produced an unbearable stench.

On November 5, 2013, in the Supreme Court, Senior Justice Vera Watkins adjourned matters because of a malfunctioning air-conditioning unit and plumbing problems in the court.

In 2014, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, then leader of the Official Opposition, said he stopped by the Public Prosecutions Office at the time only to discover that the new facility was still "filthy, disorganised and uninhabitable."

At the time, he also said prosecutors had been working out of their cars since 2013 and the former administration refused to improve their working conditions.

In January 2016, Chief Justice Sir Hartman Longley stressed that a number of the existing structural issues with court buildings continue to interfere with the administration of justice and that the judiciary would be more efficient if it received additional funding and had control of its own finances.

Speaking at the opening of the 2016 legal year, Sir Hartman stressed that a number of the existing structural issues with court buildings continued, up to that point, to interfere with the administration of justice.

To date, many of those issues are still unresolved.

In the Speech from the Throne read by Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling in May, the government noted it will "modernise and increase the efficiency of the judicial system to give wider access to justice".

Comments

killemwitdakno 2 months, 1 week ago

I missed the optimism.

Is it that you get to throw neglected buildings in with the hurricane damaged buildings?

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