Privy Council Letters Support Government’s CCJ Position

KINGSTON (JIS) — The Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, has today received two emails from the Privy Council in London, attaching copies of two letters – firstly, a letter dated 29 November 2009 to the Privy Council from Mr. John Almeida of the London-based law firm Charles Russell, and secondly the letter dated 16 April 2010 from the Registrar of the Privy Council to the then Minister of Justice and Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne QC. Copies of both letters are sent to the media with this Press Release.

The letter from Mr. Almeida to the Privy Council included the following sentence:

“The Government of Jamaica consider it important that the country’s final Court of Appeal is seen by the citizens to be participating in the Jamaican Justice system on location, albeit for a short period.”

The letter from the Registrar of the Privy Council indicated that if it were to visit Jamaica, the Government of Jamaica would be required to bear the costs of return air fares (i.e. London/Kingston/London) in club class for eight persons (being five Judges and three staff members), the costs of 5 star hotel accommodation for 8 nights for the 5 Judges and 10 nights for the 3 support staff, and the costs of the security arrangements for the visiting Judges and support staff. In addition, Jamaica would have to bear the cost of providing a venue for hearing of the appeals.

The Minister of Justice reiterates that, unlike the CCJ, the Privy Council is not established to operate as an itinerant court. While the Privy Council has been willing, over the past five years, occasionally to visit other countries to hear appeals, this is at a considerable cost to the host countries. Furthermore, given that the Judges of the Privy Council have, as their primary duty, the hearing of domestic UK appeals in their capacity as Judges of the UK Supreme Court, the scheduling of visits to other countries will need to take that into account.

Those costly, ad hoc visiting arrangements, proposed by the last Administration so that the Privy Council “is seen by the citizens to be participating in the Jamaican Justice system on location, albeit for a short period”, do not comprise a structural arrangement at the apex of our Justice System that is designed to facilitate sustained access to justice for the vast majority of the Jamaican people.

In contrast, when the five CCJ judges and their support staff visited Jamaica to hear the Shanique Myrie case, the costs of the airfare, accommodation and meals for the CCJ Judges and accompanying personnel were all paid for by the CCJ itself.

The Ministry of Justice’s records show that the Government incurred expenditure totaling J$1,032,755 in hosting their visit, to cover the venue rental at the Jamaica Conference Centre, close protection officers and judges’ orderlies, internet service, toner and protocol cars.

Furthermore, the bulk of that expenditure (J$652,095) was for the venue rental at the Jamaica Conference Centre. However, with Public Building North facility now being open at the Supreme Court complex in Kingston, Jamaica would not have to pay rental for a venue in the future, as the new facility will be able to accommodate a panel of five Judges. Therefore, future visits of the CCJ to hear cases in Jamaica will involve only minimal costs to the Jamaican taxpayer.

These are some of the reasons why the Government of Jamaica does not consider this to be an acceptable alternative to the CCJ as our final court.

The Minister of Justice is calling on all Senators to put behind us the events that occurred during the sittings of the Senate last week Thursday and Friday, and to resume the debate on the three historic Bills that will, if passed, establish the CCJ as our final court of appeal. The passing of the Bills will ensure that, at last, properly structured arrangements are available for the Jamaican people to have access to their final court.

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