PM Douglas tells Caribbean magistrates societies are changing

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, APRIL 3RD 2014 (CUOPM) – With changes in the societies in the Caribbean and around the world, it is imperative that the magisterial profession is up to the challenges.

(left to right) -  , Jarvis Matiya, Head of Justice Section, Legal and Constitutional Affairs Division, Commonwealth Secretariat in London; Chief Justice Dame Janice Pereira; Prime Minister, the Right Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas and Justice of Appeal and Chairperson of the Judicial Education Institute, the Hon. Louise Blenman.
(left to right) – , Jarvis Matiya, Head of Justice Section, Legal and Constitutional Affairs Division, Commonwealth Secretariat in London; Chief Justice Dame Janice Pereira; Prime Minister, the Right Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas and Justice of Appeal and Chairperson of the Judicial Education Institute, the Hon. Louise Blenman.

Delivering the opening remarks at a three-day conference on Judicial Ethics and Independence, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas told magistrates from around the Eastern Caribbean that societies are changing at break-neck speed.

“Traditional attitudes and behaviors are changing – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. And the traditional shapers of behavior in the Caribbean – the family, the community, the church – have been replaced by forces that emanate far beyond our region, are technologically based, and are more difficult to control. All of this has implications for the demands that are placed on our region’s judges and magistrates, of course, because brought before you each day are “the realities” of our societies – not our societies in totality, but aspects of our societies’ reality nonetheless. This, of course, creates certain challenges and certain needs within you, as you attempt to meet your responsibilities,” Prime Minister Douglas said.

He noted that in no society anywhere on earth do all members have equal wealth, equal knowledge, equal influence, or equal powers of persuasion.

“And as magistrates, you, on a daily basis, are required to interact with, and come to fair and legally defensible conclusions, in your dealings with the vast and disparate representations that comprise humanity. How do you ensure that, in your dealings with persons of divergent material and persuasive attributes justice, as they say, is not only done, but indeed appears to have been done? There are some of us who instinctively empathize with the more persuasive, the more accomplished .and there are those who instinctively empathize with those who are less persuasive, and less accomplished,” Dr. Douglas said, noting that the importance of the session is firstly, to keep any such instincts – whether in one direction or the other – in very clear check, but at the same time to understand the unfair disadvantages which the most vulnerable who come before magistrates face in their quest for justice.

“Indeed, when dealing with those who have traditionally not wielded extraordinary degrees of power – whether women, children, or the poor – how does one ensure that one’s attitude toward and responses to these individuals are both informed and appropriate? This is a matter that is of extreme importance to the texture and direction of Caribbean societies- as it is to the texture and feel of all societies – and so it is essential that discussion and debate on the issue of ethics within our judiciary be ongoing and enlivened; not only within the context of this conference, but indeed for as long as we, as sovereign states, and as a regional grouping, exist,” Dr. Douglas told the ceremony which included St. Kitts and Nevis’ Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, the Hon. Patrice Nisbett; Attorney General, the Hon. Jason Hamilton; Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Dame Janice Pereira and the two resident judges.

Dr. Douglas noted one of the direct benefits of the discussions will be a much needed articulation and understanding of the problems that magistrates face in the 21st century Caribbean as the identification of any problem is essential if there is to be any hope of this problem being solved.

“Both in my own field of medicine, as well as in my current field of governance, we have long understood the importance of not only understanding our unique needs and finding the most appropriate means of addressing them, but we have also understood the value of identifying best practices both regionally as well as internationally. The challenges and opportunities that you face as our region’s magistrates, Your Worships, must in some way be analogous to challenges and opportunities that are being faced by your peers both in the wider Caribbean as well as in the international community. The JEI’s long established tradition of reaching out beyond our shores, whether to partners in the Commonwealth, the United States, Canada, Latin America or elsewhere cannot help but redound to your benefit, therefore, as best practices extant elsewhere will, as a result of JEI’s reach, be accessible to you,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

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