We need state of the art courts, says Moree


Chief Justice Brian Moree, QC.


Tribune Staff Reporter


CHIEF Justice Brian Moree yesterday called for the construction of a new “state of the art” court complex, as he said the current facilities are all in “various states of disrepair” and “are not suitable for a modern court system”.

The country’s top judge, speaking during the opening of the 2020 legal year, criticised the “ill-suited” buildings the judiciary must use, some of which, he said, had no business being converted into courthouses in the first place.

Roofs are leaking, ceilings are collapsing and floors are cracking in different areas of the various court buildings, significantly impairing efficient use and optimal productivity of the court system, Chief Justice Moree said.

If it is raining, judges, lawyers, litigants, court staff and jurors using the ‘Swift Justice’ building “should expect to get wet” or, at the very least, have to “navigate around the buckets and makeshift containers” on the floor, he said.

And if they take a journey over to the nearby Ansbacher Building, they would easily see the “leaking” in Justice Ian Winder’s court, as well as the holes in the ceiling and leaking in the deputy registrar’s office.

Thus, he said, rather than spending millions of dollars continuously “patching old, ill-suited buildings”, it would make more sense to “stop this drain and actually do what we all know must be done”.

“…Build a new state of the art customised court complex which reflects the aspirations and standards of the Bahamian people so that we can better serve their interests through a reformed and modern court system,” he said.

“One which is accessible, efficient and effective in protecting the rights and liberties of all in the Bahamas and adjudicating disputes brought before the courts.”

During the opening of the 2019 legal year, Attorney General Carl Bethel said the government is aware of the judiciary’s infrastructural needs, and that the Minnis administration had consequently entered into a loan programme with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), termed the Citizen Security and Justice Loan Programme, to enhance the delivery of justice.

He further noted that as part of the city centre project, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has announced his government’s intention to erect a new Supreme Court building on the site of the former post office building on East Hill Street. Mr Bethel also said the government intends to acquire additional facilities in the downtown area in Nassau to house the Civil Registry.

Yesterday, however, Chief Justice Moree said talk about the need for reform and modernisation of the country’s court system, is “now impatient of debate”. He said the topic has been addressed by his predecessors for the last 15 years, but had never translated into a priority.

Rather, Chief Justice Moree said what has actually happened over the years is the implementation of a “series of ad hoc temporary measures costing millions of dollars resulting in the use of a series of renovated old buildings which were never intended to be used as a courthouse.”

“That is how we have ended up in seven different buildings spread from George Street to east of Bank Lane,” he said.

Chief Justice Moree added: “I am aware that the government is actively considering the construction of a new Supreme Court complex and has identified a specific property for the building. The prime minister referred to this project during his remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony of the new US Embassy last year and identified the old post office property as the location for the Supreme Court complex.

“I encourage the government to now move from where we have been for almost two decades to making this long sought after project a reality.”

Yesterday, Mr Bethel did not address the court system’s physical infrastructure during his remarks. However, he did say that the government is in the final stages of preparing a new office space for the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which will be housed in Charlotte House. The relocation should take place within the first quarter of 2020, Mr Bethel said.

Mr Bethel also said yesterday that the government is committed to updating the draft Court Administration Bill, which, he said, will “further enhance” the independence of the judiciary.

By way of the Bill, Mr Bethel said the government’s intent is to “firmly and effectively remove the operations, decisions, staffing and day-to-day expenditure of the court system from the public service bureaucracy and direct executive control”.

He also said that by way of the bill, the government is seeking to provide the judiciary with the full authority to “fully administer the affairs of the courts, inclusive of retaining or engaging and dis-engaging employees”.

Mr Bethel said Chief Justice Moree has solicited the government to commit to updating the bill, which he said has been “lying around in one form or another” since 2011.

Mr Bethel said the government has committed to go through a final “quality and consistency review” prior to tabling the bill and passing it into law before the end of the first quarter of 2020, and well before the next annual budget.


Clamshell 4 years, 4 months ago

Indeed ... schools, hospitals, courts ... everybody leakin’ and crumblin’ ... and usin’ candles ‘cause the power is out ... again.


Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 4 months ago

Why doesn't Moree name and shame all of the landlords who have received outrageously generous lease contracts from government in connection with the court system? The name and shaming should identify the each property being leased for the court system, the lease expiration date, the total floor space and the current annual rental costs.


bahamianson 4 years, 4 months ago

We need state of the art.everytjing, including lawyers.


joeblow 4 years, 4 months ago

… a state of the art PM would be nice too!


TalRussell 4 years, 4 months ago

Excellent pick colony's Chief Justice. By time Comrade Brian, makes it to end year one his term, what be left he hair will turn from white to an old man's gray-haired, hand wringer mop bucket. You couldn't make this up, you just, couldn't.


Sign in to comment