OECS Bar condemns attacks on judiciary by certain CARICOM leaders

The OECS Bar Association (“the OECS Bar”) has joined with its Commonwealth Caribbean counterparts in strongly condemning recent statements made by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

The OECS Bar says the statements that were made clearly constitute an attack on the independence of the judiciary and regrettably reflect a disconnect from the realities of criminal behaviour in society and the role of the Judiciary.

The Association notes in statements widely published in the media throughout the region, both Prime Ministers harshly criticised judges for granting bail for murder and effectively accused judicial officers of favouritism to certain lawyers.

It said Dr. Gonsalves characterised “too many” judges and magistrates as being “too soft” and called for the carrying out of the death penalty as a form of punishment.

Both Prime Ministers were speaking at the two-day Regional Crime Symposium held in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago under the theme “Violence as a Public Health Issue – The Crime Challenge”.

The OECS Bar says instead of focusing on the real issues impacting crime, such as the lack of investment in youth, the family, education, the judicial system, the police, and the crown prosecution service, some leaders preferred playing the blame game – blaming everybody else but the politicians currently in office.

The Association says it is truly disappointed at the missed opportunity at the symposium, in finding new and creative ways to tackle the scourge of crime, but instead leaving the headlines blazing and opportunistically focused on judges and magistrates who speak from their judgments and are in no position to defend themselves publicly against such attacks.

The OECS Bar believes the attacks on judicial officers were wholly unfair, unfounded, uncalled for, and misplaced.

“Our Bar Associations in the region have been consistently calling, over the years, for an overdue injection of resources to boost our legal system long suffering from poor accommodation, woefully inadequate and ill-equipped supporting registries, a serious shortage of judges to meet the ever-growing demand of cases within the system and a lack of basic equipment and tools for transcription and other services ancillary to the work of judicial officers.”

The OECS Bar makes it clear that judicial officers are not above criticism, but the Association remains troubled by the statements of the two distinguished leaders, whose pronouncements carry great weight and influence in the region.

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