For and Against Arguments for Jamaica Having Their Own Final Court of Appeal

The Privy Council based in Britain and serves as the final Court of Appeal for all of the countries of the region except Guyana and Barbados. Barbados and Guyana both accepted the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) established in 2005, as their final Court of Appeal. Caricom governments established the Caribbean Court of Justice to replace the London based Privy Council as the regions final court and concerns such as the CCJ being open to political interference were raised by regional jurists but later dismissed by the Court.

Retention of the Privy Council as the Final Court of Appeal is a long ongoing argument/debate amongst judges, practitioners as well as the general public Lord Phillips, president of the New Supreme Court said that he would like to find measures to reduce the “disproportionate” time Senior Justices spend hearing legal appeals from Commonwealth countries to the Privy Council (PC) in London. He also questions whether some of the Privy Council cases ranging from Jamaican death row appeals to fights over needed to be heard by a panel of five of Britain’s most senior judges.

In an ‘ideal world’ former Commonwealth Countries would forego using the Privy Council and set up their own final court of appeal. Security it affords the PC, the geographic location (removed from the Caribbean) it is untainted by local pressure of politics of patronage. The Privy Councils freedom from political pressure allows its decisions especially in times of political controversy easier. The political distance of the Privy Council allows for decisions to be fair and objective (impartial) while having our own final court such as the CCJ might not be as impartial with justice or the decisions made.

We get the same quality of justice as the United Kingdom and corruption of the judges is highly unlikely. The Privy Council as it is, is uninfluenced by political or social factors of the region and having it otherwise might result in the corruption of judges as they have been granted legal authority. In other regions there have been cases of judges in the region being convicted of bribery. Being so far away they are able to consider matters of law as simply matters of law.

A deterrent for establishing the CCJ is the cost of maintaining it. Funds are present to start the court and a trust fund has been established, however the region is still developing and problems of recession and financial problems are apparent, therefore long term financing of the court would be an issue. Personnel as well as financial resources are vital for maintenance and the efficient performance of a Caribbean final court.

The high cost for setting up that body for largely free and tribunal, the Privy Council which costs nothing because it is supported by the British taxpayers. The Privy Council is one of the strongest tribunals in the English speaking world composed of persons of outstanding legal scholarship and intellectual ability, of proven legal experience and outstanding legal careers. Caribbean judges may not be able to compare favourably with members of the Privy Council and getting qualified judges to run it will also cost.

Selection of the Caribbean judges for the CCJ in particular or any other court would have to look at whether candidates satisfy known criteria (such as intellectual ability, integrity, capacity for hard work, character, moral, independence of mind). Commonwealth Caribbean countries are urged to have their own final Court of Appeal, some believe that should have taken place from they became independent and that the Constitutions should have provided that.

The Federal Court has been around for four years working with the highest international standards and moving on to the CCJ will show our (Jamaica’s) self respect, independence as well as confidence of the people in its success. As such believe that the members of the House of Representative along with fourteen senators should support the passage of a law that will enable the country to accept the jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice as our final appellate body. Which many are of the opinion we lack as we bring our cases, disputes among the citizens of the country to the Privy Council. In the past members of the Privy Council have expressed that appeals to the Court from the Caribbean should end.

Appeals related to death row prisoners in the Caribbean create a burden on the time as well as the resources of the Court. With the region establishing and accepting their own final court important policy decisions on legal matters and principles which they believe should be in state would be therefore staffed by citizens of that specific state and not by outsiders, giving them legal independence.

Issues of the Privy Council being so far away does concern many persons as, with it being outside of the region and being left to make important decisions for the citizens living in the country. They don’t have any real knowledge of life in the region and they lack the knowledge of social conditions, the peculiarities of the region (West Indies) results in Caribbean counsel having to inform and educate the court of life, what is the norm in W.

I life. The CCJ will bring us close ensuring there are common legal systems as it relates to judicial determinations, judicial decisions and the precedents that follow. However the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has never been in favour or embraced the idea even though the country had previously signed on to the CCJ’s jurisdiction. The country contributes significantly to the CCJ but receives limited benefits.