Chief Justice defends judiciary

CHIEF Justice Ian Winder inspecting police officers during ceremonies for the start of the legal year. Photos: Austin Fernander

CHIEF Justice Ian Winder inspecting police officers during ceremonies for the start of the legal year. Photos: Austin Fernander


Tribune Staff Reporter


CHIEF Justice Ian Winder yesterday defended the work done by the courts, saying it is irresponsible for people to attack the judiciary and say they are responsible for all that ails the criminal justice system.

He said judges live in the same community as everyone else and they also want crime to be reduced.

Justice Winder also spoke about his plans to speed up criminal trials and help tackle the longstanding issue of a court backlog. These include the establishment of a court backlog committee and criminal case management reform committee and the assignment of an additional judge to the criminal division in New Providence to build capacity, among others.

There has been ongoing criticism about the length it takes for some criminal trials to start and wrap up as well as concern about accused violent offenders being granted bail, only to reoffend or be killed on the streets.

Speaking about those who attack the judiciary about the issues in the system or the length it takes for trials to be complete, he said: “Not only is the suggestion wholly inaccurate, it ignores the non-realities in the criminal courts and in our country.

“In the past year, a considerable amount of nollies have been entered by the Office of the Department of Public Prosecutions. Most of these have been entered after the trial has begun, or on the morning when the trial was commenced, often causing considerable loss of court days.

“Judges do not live in ivory towers… We attend the same stores, churches and public places, as every member of the society, our children, and our families live in this society and we love this country as much as everyone else. We want our communities to be safe and crime at a reducible minimum.”

He spoke during a ceremony to mark the opening of the legal year.

While acknowledging that criminal trials are not proceeding as fast as they used to, Justice Winder pointed to a number of issues that have caused lengthy delays in the trial process, including access to information, the extension of legal aid assistance to unrepresented persons, greater incidences of challenges to confession statements among other issues.

Additionally, the chief justice gave an update on their efforts to establish specialty courts, saying work continues for the establishment of a sex offences court.

As it relates to the family court, he said a site has already been identified.

“To meaningfully develop a family court however, a holistic approach must be undertaken as a proper family court is more than just an adequate and appropriately appointed building space,” he continued.

“We need the legislative framework we put in place to achieve this goal. A working committee has been established… and the CEO of the Trinidad and Tobago judiciary has been engaged as a consultant to assist as we build out this project as it proceeds.”

Speaking to the Magistrate’s Court, Justice Winder said there is a need to amend the Magistrate’s Court Act which he suggested is outdated and does now allow the court to keep pace with the needs of the current age.

The chief justice told those gathered that he has asked officials to make recommendations on amendments to the act and was advised “by the attorney general that such a measure would have his support.”

With respect to the Coroner’s Court, Justice Winder maintained that proper functioning of this court continues to be a challenge.

He said while the acting coroner is doing a commendable job, she is hampered by the absence of a marshal to lead the evidence before the court.

“While inquests, other than police-involved deaths, are being carried out, the court is unable to properly fulfil its mandate in respect of all debts. Discussions with the learned director of public prosecutions had initially identified an officer to perform the function,” he also said.

“That option has since fallen through and the search continues, I’m advised, to locate a replacement marshall. I implore the director of public prosecutions once again to bring the conclusion to this matter.”

He also foreshadowed significant changes to the judicial system this year and pointed to the upcoming appointment of five new Supreme Court judges, which he said will be announced very shortly.

“Two judges will be assigned to the commercial and civil divisions, who will be appointed with effect from the first of February 2023,” the chief justice said. “Another judge who will be assigned to the criminal division will be appointed with effect from the first of February 2023.

“The fourth judge will be assigned to the family division and will be appointed with effect from the first of March 2023 and the fifth judge will be assigned to the northern region will be appointed with effect from the first of May 2023. He will be assigned to both civil and criminal divisions.”

He also bid farewell to several justices in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal who are set to retire later this year, including Justice Carolita Bethel and Justice Diane Stewart.

“Whilst opportunities will arise for a proper farewell for these exemplary judicial officers, I want to use this occasion to publicly recognise their commitment and service to the judiciary and to wish them well in the next chapters of their lives,” he added.


moncurcool 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Can someone please tell me why the chief justice has to inspect the police? Is that really what the judiciary should be about? Is that really what the police should be wasting time doing?


killemwitdakno 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Too much damn inspections at unimportant ceremonies.


Apostle 2 months, 2 weeks ago

That is a ceremony and an honour guard for the Chief Justice. That's not a waste of time.


killemwitdakno 2 months, 2 weeks ago

So why can't we remove all capital punishment cases from London and have the Caribbean court do it?


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