May I respectfully address this court held in person, constituted by Your Ladyship by Ms. Justice Tanya Lobban Jackson and Your Lordship Mr. Justice Anthony Gruchot. May I also address virtually, Mr. Justice Dennis Morrison President of the Court of Appeal, My Lord Mr. Justice Neville Adderley Acting President for the January Session of the of the Court of Appeal, and Justices of Appeal participating remotely.
My Lords, may I with your leave, recognise the presence of our esteemed and distinguished guests, in the protocol so ably set by the Honourable Attorney General.
My Lords, I note the remarks of the Hon. Attorney General, the Learned Director of Public Prosecutions, The President of the Bar Council, and the Doyen of the Bar, and I thank them for their generous words of encouragement for the work of the Judiciary in the past year.
My Lords, for two years, I have, at the end of my speech at the Opening of the New Year, made promises to the people of these islands: the pledge of the judiciary as well as my personal pledge to be tireless in our efforts to improve justice delivery in these islands. We have boasted in our mission statement (part of which we have included in our logo), that we provide access to quality justice.
Today, I start my speech in the spirit of constant improvement by posing this probing question: how are we doing? The Judiciary has been the architect of a number of initiatives, some of which have been publicly celebrated, while others have been delivered quietly, but, My Lords, if I may be permitted the colloquialism: how is Justice really doing under our watch?
As I pondered this question, it became clear to me that our initiatives must be measured against this sole criterion: whether or not they improve how justice is administered or delivered to every resident of these islands.
With this in mind, I commence my response to the Honourable Attorney General’s motion.
My Lords, in 2022 as in the years preceding it, the Attorney General’s Chambers worked with the judiciary to improve the delivery of justice through collaborative work that resulted in the passing of some Ordinances and the publication of some Rules. These have had the effect of strengthening the administration of the Judiciary to place it in the position to implement structures and strategic interventions that will improve the delivery of justice in these islands. The said Ordinances include: The Chief Justice (Responsibilities) Ordinance which has brought clarity to the duties of the Chief Justice as head of the Judiciary, and coherence to the administration of justice. The Ordinance provides a legal framework for responsibilities of the office of the Chief Justice, that had already crystallized into practice and formed part of the terms of reference for the office, but lacked legislative underpinnings. The Court of Appeal (Amendment) Ordinance has settled the question of that court’s power acting by a single justice, to enlarge time for the bringing of an appeal, thus increasing access to justice. Amendments to the Magistrate’s Court Ordinance have formally introduced the position of Chief Magistrate as well as Registrar of the Magistrate’s Court, and further defined the role of the Chief Justice in the administration of the Magistrate’s Court, ensuring cohesion in administration. All these should translate into institutional accountability and for the regulation of Justices of the Peace.
Rules published with the assistance of the Chambers have been in line with our mission to increase access to quality justice. These are: The Restorative Justice Rules, which provide for victim offender reconciliation as a form of mediation in criminal cases; The Legal Aid (Amendment) Rules which expand legal aid by introducing automatic legal aid for juveniles, refine disciplinary procedures for attorneys against whom complaints are made, and generally streamline the process from the time of the filing of an application, to the time a legal aid certificate is issued, and an attorney is assigned.
The Legal Aid (Amendment No. 2) Rules make provision for accountability for the use of the public purse, by requiring attorneys who are assigned legal aid briefs to provide periodic reports of their work. Beyond the desired accountability, these Rules will also help the Judiciary to keep track of cases assigned, and prevent any cases from falling into the cracks.
The Legal Aid (Early Criminal and Civil Assistance) (Amendment) Rules provide for a Duty Counsel to provide access to justice for a person under arrest in an island different from his place of regular abode and practice, by providing representation.
We are still working with the Chambers to get a Bail Bill and a Jury Bill that may replace the present Jury Ordinance, through to passage.
To save the use of judicial time, The Times for General Admission to Practise Before the Courts Order, has moved the court from ad hoc applications for general admissions to a regulated system of admissions of four times in the year: on the first working day after the Opening of the Legal Year; in the first week of April of the calendar year; in the first week of August, with the final set in the first week of December.
My Lords, you will no doubt agree with me that the Attorney General and her dedicated, focused, resilient and very professional team deserve commendation for their hard work evident, in the very much needed legislation, delivered sometimes at the cost of their vacation time, but always with a smile. Our collaboration has resulted in improved access to quality justice, and I take this opportunity to re-echo my thanks.
RESPONSE TO THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
My Lords, may I also recognise the continued efforts of the Learned Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), and, and his office, to support the Judiciary, in our collective effort to deliver quality justice in these islands. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions continues to work assiduously to prosecute cases before our courts, sometimes in less-than-ideal circumstances.
The Office continues to support judicial initiatives by participating in committees, and in the quarterly Bench Bar Law Enforcement meeting which keeps inter-institutional channels open for improved delivery of, and access to justice.
I could not talk about institutional cooperation with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions without commenting on the Victims and Witness Support Unit which was launched by that office on 24th June 2022, and collaborates with stakeholders to deliver its mandate of giving the criminal justice system in these islands a new direction, purpose and the face of empathy to the victims and persons impacted by criminal acts.
It is my hope that the Office of the DPP will continue to work with the Judiciary to provide needed changes to criminal justice delivery in these islands.
RESPONSE TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE BAR COUNCIL AND THE DOYEN OF THE BAR
My Lords, to The President of the Bar Council Mr. Selvyn Hawkins, and Mr. Ariel Misick KC Doyen of the Bar, I wish to say thank you, as I did in 2022, for the partnership of the Bar with the Judiciary.
That the Bar is our valued partner, cannot be gainsaid.
Every day, members of the Bar work hard to represent their clients before our courts, and together we build the jurisprudence of these islands. (May I pause here to celebrate with Mr. Peter McKnight, his 1500th appearance before our courts in his twenty-two years’ work with us).
But beyond that symbiotic relationship, My Lords, is our partnership with the Bar in judicial and legal sector growth initiatives. Notable among these in 2022, was the Moot Court competition for high schools.
The Judiciary was proud to participate in this nurturing, mentoring, and skills- development programme which was a resounding success.
My Lords, Resident Magistrate Selver-Gardiner’s presence at the launch of the programme, the chairing of the knock-out round by Acting Chief Magistrate Kemble, and of the semi-final and final rounds by Justices Aziz and Lobban Jackson, with excellent administrative and technical support provided by Ms. Aisha de Four and Mr. Justin Kernezier respectively, the Judiciary demonstrated its commitment to joining hands with the Bar Council in a programme aimed at providing solid building blocks for the future of the legal profession in these islands.
The Bar continues to participate in the Judiciary’s committees set up to find ways to improve delivery of, and access to justice. I must also commend the Bar for wholeheartedly embracing the Duty Counsel programme and making it workable. The program has broadened access to justice by providing representation at the investigation stage of criminal justice delivery.
Mr. President, I have consulted with you on a number of interventions, and found you always ready to engage, and available to provide needed information to move our reform process forward and I thank you.
My Lords, the Bar Association of the Turks and Caicos Islands, working with other legal sector institutions, including the Criminal Justice Stakeholder Group, has demonstrated its commitment to the rule of law, access to justice, and the development of the profession.
I can only, three years in a row, applaud them for their forward thinking and hands-to-the plough attitude, to change and progress.
My Lords, at the Opening of the 2022 Legal Year, I spoke of committees set up by the Judiciary to increase access to justice and enhance capacity to which our stakeholders, being the Attorney General’s Chambers, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands’ Police Force, The Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (formerly Her Majesty’s Prison), the Department of Immigration, and the Bar Council have all contributed technical expertise. I provided their composition last year which remains the same. I am happy to report that three of the committees: the Sentencing Guidelines Committee, the Magistrate’s Court Rules Committee, and the Civil Procedure Rules Committee are in the final stages of their work. The draft Civil Procedure Rules which will be presented to me shortly will be reviewed shortly by a Rules Review Committee, before a final draft is submitted for publication.
In addition to the committees that are wrapping up their work, I make mention once again, of our standing committees for legal aid, civil legal aid, mediation and restorative justice.
I thank all committee members, old and new, for their time, and efforts to improve justice delivery in these islands. The Judiciary’s initiatives would have remained pipedreams, or at best, high sounding words on paper, without your efforts and contribution.
My Lords, I must now speak of initiatives introduced in 2022, and some initiatives commenced in 2021 which became fully operational in 2022.
Restorative Justice, a 2022 flagship programme, is an Alternative Dispute mechanism which finds positive ways forward after the devastating effects of crime by encouraging meaningful engagement between victims and other persons impacted by criminal conduct, and the offender. It employs a reparative approach to criminal justice by emphasizing the repairing of harm caused to victims and persons impacted by crime, without sacrificing the accountability that should accompany the commission of crime. In this regard, is also an outworking of a system for achieving the reparations introduced by the Alternative Sentencing Ordinance.
The restorative justice programme was launched after persons were trained to work as Facilitators. Unlike the training of mediators which was open to public participation, the forty-hour certified specialised training for Restorative Justice
Facilitators was offered by the Judiciary through the University of the West Indies in April 2022, primarily to stakeholders in the Criminal Justice system: judicial officers and staff of the judiciary, public prosecutors, attorneys, and members of the Department of Social Development and Welfare. The Judiciary will shortly publish a roster of Facilitators and commence this justice delivery service in earnest.
Mediation and The Mediation Centre
My Lords, in the last quarter of 2021, the Judiciary introduced court-connected mediation, to provide dispute resolution, alternative to, but working in tandem with the courts. To avoid tedium, I will not rehearse the advantages of annexing the mechanism to our justice delivery.
I will however pause to recognize the contribution of our pioneer Mediators. These are the persons who having trained as certified mediators, have had their names placed on our roster. They are: Ms. Andwena Lockhart; Dr. Barbara Ambrister; Mr. Craig Oliver; Mr. Evan Williams; Ms. Kerchelle Bain whose contribution as our first administrator I recognise; Ms. Shayone Gardiner; Mr. Willin Belliard; Ms. Sanfra Foster; Mr. Conrad Griffiths KC; Mr. David Cadman KC; Ms. Alana Alexander; Rev. Frederick Braithwaite; Ms. Patricia Duff; Tremmaine Harvey; Ms. Susan Malcolm; Ms. Davonne Morris; Ms. Thashanna Thomas; Ms. Wilette Pratt; Ms. Nyree Taylor-Williams.
I recognize the said Mediators for their service delivered with guidance from the able hand of Ms. Patricia Arana, the ADR Administrator.
The Mediators have worked hard to resolve disputes, some of them very difficult, thus providing an alternative to expensive and protracted litigation. However, their work has been quite sacrificial, as the remuneration we offer at this time is not commensurate with the work they do and the results they have produced in this short time. We hope to review this in due course.
My Lords, to the Mediator’s roster, will shortly be added persons we have recently trained and equipped with the specialised skill in Family Mediation and who will provide the service shortly.
My Lords, you may recall that in July 2022, the Judiciary commissioned a Mediation Centre, sponsored in the first year, by the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office, of the United Kingdom. The Centre is a fit for purpose space for providing alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. I am happy to report that we have granted the Bar Council’s pro bono programme, permission to use the premises from time to time, in line with our mission to enhance access to quality justice.
My Lords may I respectfully provide an update on TCI-LII, the internet reporting portal linked to global resources which we commissioned in 2020. The resource continues to be updated regularly with the rulings and judgments handed down by our courts. Our very recent 2022 analytics have shown that TCILII has grown over 100% in usage compared to 2021.
Geographically, our statistics show that the usage is widespread in the region: in Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and internationally in the UK and Canada.
In 2021 and 2022, our judgments were also reported in Volumes 99 and 100 of the West Indian Reports. This is a high achievement of which we are very proud as a Judiciary.
REGIONAL KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (KMS)
In 2022, we also partnered with the regional JURIST Project’s Knowledge Management System (KMS) to publish TCI’s rulings and judgments on their website, which is available regionally. In addition, the JURIST Projects KMS system has provided us with the capability to publish our judgments and rulings on our judicial.tc website.
THE JUDICIAL EDUCATION INSTITUTE (JEI)
The Judicial Education Institute (JEI) continued its mandate in 2022 and was prolific in its offerings. As in previous years, the Institute rolled out a series of trainings to improve the capacity of our Judicial Officers and support staff as well as stakeholder joint training on various topics to enhance legal sector capacity.
For our support staff, the JEI hosted a Wellness Session, over two days, for two groups of attendees on 25 February and 4 March 2022. The session, which was intended to add mental wellness to our staff development, with the ultimate goal being an improvement in the performance of our work and delivery of our mandate, was conducted by Dr. Dianne Douglas, a regionally celebrated psychologist from Trinidad and Tobago.
The JEI also continued its capacity-building programme commenced in 2021, to equip our Court Clerks with paralegal qualification – the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP) Level 3 Diploma in Paralegal Practice offered through Datalaw.
In 2022, two more members of staff: Ms. Takesia Stubbs and Ms. Dwayna Higgs joined the three members in the programme.
We are on course to adding two more persons this legal year.
The paralegal training is a fit for purpose training that provides higher educational qualification for Court Clerks to better perform their support duties to the court, thus moving our service delivery to an enhanced standard.
My Lords, the JEI’s programmes for judicial officers were provided through the use of resource persons from the region who all graciously offered their service free of charge.
My Lords, to enhance the court’s efficiency in the areas of non-contentious probate matters as well as in the taxation of costs, the JEI in June 2022, organised training for our Registrars and Supreme Court staff on Wills and Probate Administration. The training was conducted by King’s Counsel Mr. Ian Wilkinson from Jamaica who has limited admission to practice before our Supreme Court. Mr. Wilkinson KC offered this service to equip our Registrars to provide improved service in this important area of law and practice.
The training has also provided the Judiciary with ideas on how to improve the legislative regime, which we shall champion and hope to work on with the Attorney General’s Chambers this year.
In August, 2022, another training was offered to the Registrars on The Taxation of Costs. The resource persons for this training were the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Jamaica, and the Registrar of the Court of Appeal of Jamaica. We hope to augment these efforts with further trainings to provide improvement in the delivery of this service.
Social Media Training
My Lords as part of its ethics training, in July 2022, the JEI collaborated with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the Global Judicial Integrity Network to provide training on the use of Social Media to members of the Bench.
This was followed by a September 2022 Induction Course organised to introduce our new judge Mr. Justice Gruchot, to judicial work.
Resource persons for this included Chief Justice Ian Winder of the Bahamas, Justice Carlos Simons KC former judge of the Supreme Court, and the former Registrar Ms. McLean.
In the same month: September 2022, JEI again retained Dr, Dianne Douglas to assist our Judicial Officers with managing their hectic work/life balance as part of the Judicial Wellness program for the mental wellness of our judges and magistrates.
Stakeholder Inclusive Training
My Lords, inclusive trainings for the Judiciary and its stakeholders were offered in 2022 to enhance our collective capacity to meet the challenges posed by changing methods in crime commission, and to provide best practices of a responsive, proactive criminal justice system to us.
These trainings include a March 2022, training on Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking. To deliver this, the Judiciary partnered with the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers (CAJO) led by The Hon. Mr. Justice Jamadar of the Caribbean Court of Justice, to conduct a training session for the Judiciary, ODPP the Bar, Police and Probation Officers.
Another training, this time on the Judicial Consideration of DNA Evidence was conducted by our JEI On 26th May 2022 and on 27 May training was offered in New Trends in Cyber Crime for our Bench and Bar. Our very able resource persons were from the Office of the DPP in Jamaica.
On 2 December 2022, the JEI once again organised a training for the Judiciary and our stakeholders to unpack two of the suite of criminal justice legislation which came into effect on 7 November 2022: the Anti-Gang Ordinance and the Interception of Communications. The training was jointly conducted by Mr. Andrew Mitchell KC, a member of the TCI Bar, Mr. Quinn Hawkins an attorney with limited admission to practice before our courts, and Mr. Rajiv Persad, an attorney from the Bar of Trinidad and Tobago.
My Lords, I make mention also of the Judiciary’s specialised training in Family Mediation from 21 – 24 and 28 November, offered through the University of the West Indies. As a follow up to this training, our JEI will in January of this year, offer Training in Family Law to the mediators to provide context to their training by providing them with an understanding of the Family Law legislative framework in the TCI.
My Lords, I take this opportunity to thank all our resource persons who in 2022, offered their time, to transfer expertise without charge to the Judiciary, in the spirit of regional cooperation.
The JEI’s 2023 training calendar is being fleshed out, and promises to continue to be robust and stimulating, as it will provide for learning on the shortly to be launched new Civil Procedure Rules, advocacy training for our Junior Bar, and other areas of the law and legal practice.
Annual Lecture Series
My Lords, this evening we pioneer another initiative in Judicial Education: an annual lecture series named after an illustrious former Chief Justice and member of the Court of Appeal, Sir Richard Ground, OBE QC, who achieved much for the judiciary before his unfortunate demise.
Regional and International Conferences:
My Lords, our Judiciary cherishes its place as a partner in jurisprudence and justice delivery in the Caribbean region. This strong relationship provides many benefits, one of which I have already adverted to, being resources in capacity building. The delivery tonight of our inaugural lecture series by the eminent jurist: Mr. Justice Adrian Saunders, the President of the Caribbean Court of Justice and member of the Caricom Chief Justices and Heads of Judiciaries Conference, is another example of such cooperation.
My Lords, in pursuance of good relationships both regionally and internationally, members of the Judiciary attended regional and international conferences in 2022. In these conferences, not only did we receive information on best practices to perform our core duty of administering justice, but we also shared with other jurisdictions, our expertise in diverse areas.
It was for this reason that in June 2022, I attended the Caricom Chief Justices and Heads of Judiciaries Conference in the Cayman Islands. This meeting produced a resolve for increased cooperation among the judiciaries in the region, in knowledge sharing, judicial education, among other things.
In September 2022, The Hon. Ms. Justice Lobban Jackson and Resident Magistrate Kemble (now Acting Chief Magistrate), and Mr. Justice Aziz former judge of the Supreme Court, attended the triennial Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association Conference in Accra, Ghana. The conference spoke to harnessing experiences of judiciaries gained in the Covid 19 pandemic to develop best judicial practices throughout the Commonwealth.
Also in October 2022, the Hon. Mr. Justice Adderley, JA, now Acting President of the January Session of the Court of Appeal led a delegation of four to the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers (CAJO) Conference in St Lucia. In this team were Resident Magistrate Mrs. Selver Gardiner, Magistracy Registrar, Ms. Patricia Arana, Senior Deputy Registrar Mr. Lalbeharry and our Court Administrator, Mrs. Jervis.
Lastly, in October 2022, Mr. Justice Gruchot, Judicial Research Assistant, Mr. Emmanuel, joined me in a virtual attendance of the 4th Full Meeting of the Standing International Forum of Commercial Courts (SIFoCC), held in Sydney, Australia.
My Lords, this brings me now, to a very short account of the happenings at the Judiciary in 2022, that I have not previously outlined.
I begin with staff matters, with the additions and subtractions to our team:
The Hon. Mr. Justice Neville Adderley was due to retire from the Court of Appeal in December 2022. Instead, His Lordship graciously agreed to extend his service, and to accept the position of acting President of the Court of Appeal, in the temporary absence of President Morrison from his duties. We thank Acting President Adderley for agreeing to not only extend his contract, but to take up the administrative responsibility of President of the Court.
The Hon. Mr. Justice Humphrey Stollmeyer retired from the Court of Appeal at the turn of the year. His Lordship was a member of our Court of Appeal from 2016 – 2022, and we thank him for his years of service, diligent work and guidance to the courts given through his judgments. We wish him a peaceful, restful and happy retirement.
We shall hold a special sitting of the Supreme Court, for both Mr. Justice Stollmeyer, and Acting President Neville Adderley after the January session of the court. The date for the auspicious event will be communicated in due course.
The process of appointing two new Justices of Appeal to replace them is ongoing. In the very near future, we look forward to welcoming them into our Judiciary.
My Lords, it is with deep pride that I announce that one of our own: Justice of Appeal Ian Winder is now not only Chief Justice of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, but has recently been made a Knight Bachelor. We congratulate Sir Ian for attaining this high honour.
At the Supreme Court, The Hon. Mr Justice Simons KC who was appointed for one year, demitted office in March 2022 after serving the Judiciary as a Supreme Court Justice. We held a special sitting to celebrate His Lordship’s accomplishments during his tenure. He gave of his best in the service of this country and deserves our thanks for his service to the Judiciary which continues to this day in different capacities, as a JEI resource person.
After he demitted office and before a new judge was appointed, Mr. Michael Hylton KC was appointed for three months as an Acting Judge. We thank him for his dedicated service to the Judiciary in those three months, and his continued service on our Civil Procedure Rules Committee.
The Hon. Mr. Justice Anthony Gruchot joined our bench from the Turks and Caicos Islands Bar in September 2022 and we are delighted to have His Lordship join our ranks.
The Hon. Mr. Justice Shiraz Aziz moved on from our Judiciary in October 2022, resigning his position to respond to family needs. Justice Aziz served the Judiciary for about four and a half years after joining us from the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. We regret that due to scheduling difficulties in October 2022, we were unable to hold the planned special sitting to publicly acknowledge his contribution to this Judiciary during his years of dedicated service. May we thank him and wish him well in the new chapter he has begun. Along with the two Justices of Appeal, we will acknowledge Mr. Justice Aziz’s contribution in the special sitting that will be announced shortly.
My Lords, the process of recruiting Justice Aziz’s replacement is continuing.
To ensure the continuity of the court’s work at a time of enhanced criminal activity, the Chief Magistrate, Mr. Jolyon Hatmin was appointed as an Acting Judge of the Supreme Court from November 2022 until the end of January 2023. While Mr. Hatmin is Acting Judge, Ms. Keri-Ann Kemble is acting as Chief Magistrate, and our Magistracy Registrar, Ms. Arana, who was previously a Senior Magistrate in Belize, has been acting as a Magistrate in Providenciales.
I must thank all of them for their team spirit, and for answering the call to serve to ensure continuity of justice delivery in an exigent situation.
Our Judiciary currently operates with a good crop of persons in administrative positions: Ms. Renee McLean, Registrar of the Supreme Court, demitted office on 4 December 2022 after 6 years’ service to the Judiciary. We thank her for her service over the years, and wish her well in her new endeavours.
Until the substantive post is filled, Senior Deputy Registrar Mr. Narendra Lalbeharry, who joined us in June 2022, has been appointed Acting Registrar until 28 February 2022.
The position of Court Administrator which became vacant in June 2021, was filled by Mrs. Barbara Jervis, former Court Services Manager, who acted as Court Administrator for a number of months from June 2021 until she was appointed to the substantive post in March 2022.
The new position of Executive Director, Office of the Chief Justice, was created in April 2022 to provide administrative support to the office of the Chief Justice. The position is filled by Ms. Aisha de Four, who was promoted to it from the position of Law Clerk to the Chief Justice.
The new position of Registrar of the Magistrate’s Court was created in 2021 to provide a necessary service in administration at the Magistrate’s Court, working with the Chief Magistrate. The position has been filled by Ms. Patricia Arana as of 1 April 2022. She joined our judiciary from the Supreme Court of Belize where she was a Deputy Registrar and former Chief Magistrate.
She is tasked with improving the service delivery of the Magistrate’s Court to the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands by providing guidance on court procedures to court users, coordinating the activities of and supervising the Clerks of Court, Assistant Clerks and Bailiffs of the Magistrate’s Court. She is among other things, to also ensure compliance with the law when court office staff are performing clerical and other functions, to be the custodian of all documents, exhibits, articles seized or of anything detained by a Magistrate in accordance with any law, to perfect orders of the Magistrate’s Court, certify extracts of the proceedings of the Magistrate’s Court, and to produce, prepare, and certify appeal records of the Magistrate’s Court to the Supreme Court.
We have also filled one of the new Judicial Research Assistant positions created in 2021 to lend research support to Supreme Court Judges and Judges of Appeal, and to provide some administrative support to the Office of the Chief Justice. Mr. Antonio Emmanuel, a distinguished attorney who filled the position, has over 7 years’ experience at the Bar and joined us on 1 May 2022 from the Caribbean Court of Justice.
The role of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Administrator was created internally. The ADR role arises out the Court Connected Mediation Rules and the Restorative Justice Rules, and is responsible for administering the ADR regime. This role is not a stand-alone position and is administered alongside the Judicial Research Assistant’s work. Ms. Kerchelle Bain, former Judicial Research Assistant set the ball rolling, and we are grateful to her for her contribution.
At this time, Ms. Patricia Arana noted for her resourcefulness, has added the task of ADR Administrator to her other responsibilities, and is doing very commendable work for which she deserves the thanks I offer to her publicly today.
My Lords, it is not hard to tell from all these moving parts that the Human Resources Directorate has been of immense help to the Judiciary, enabling our work to continue without disruption. However, due to the leanness of our staff complement, our work sometimes falls short of expectation in providing the structure for the efficient delivery of justice. We therefore hope very shortly to make a very urgent request for some Court Clerks, Assistant Clerks and additional Administrative Assistants for the Magistrate’s Court and Supreme Court both in Grand Turk and Providenciales in order to make us more efficient in the execution of our mandate.
A Fulltime Coroner
My Lords, the Judiciary has been tasked with creating the office of a dedicated Coroner for these islands. In August 2022, Cabinet granted approval for this, being persuaded that such would be necessary to deal with the large backlog of coronial cases. It was recognised that in the circumstance of an unexplained death, persons impacted by the event and indeed society as a whole, deserved answers provided with some urgency, but that this had been lacking for some years. Thus was a decision made to give to a full-time Coroner, rather than the Chief Magistrate, the responsibility of dealing with coronial matters.
With budgetary arrangements now in place, the Judiciary is making arrangements to secure office space to be used as a court for the Coroner together with his office and office for his/her support staff. Following the provision of a court/offices, a person possessing the qualifications of a Magistrate will be appointed to exercise the jurisdiction set out in the Coroner’s Ordinance. It is expected that all this will be completed in the first quarter of this year.
Regulated Justices of the Peace
My Lords, the Cabinet also took the decision to place the supervision of Justices of the Peace in the Chief Justice. The Judiciary has embraced this task and is working with the Attorney General’s Chambers on a Magistrate’s Court (Amendment) Bill which we hope will be passed into law by the House of Assembly. Regulations will be published alongside the Ordinance to bring greater clarity to the role and work of Justices of the Peace. Training on the new regime will be delivered by the JEI as soon as the amendment and the regulations come into force.
It is expected that the regulatory framework will provide structure, training, supervision and be an improvement on the existing regime. The goal is to provide more efficient service to the residents of these islands.
Expanded Supreme Court
My Lords, His Excellency the Governor has approved the expansion of the Supreme Court by one judge. This judge will be a General Jurisdiction Judge. While he/she will be expected to conduct trials as the second criminal judge at Grand Turk to improve the output of the criminal court at Grand Turk. Due to infrastructural constraints however, alternative arrangements which will be communicated in due course, will be made in the short term.
STATISTICS AND PERFORMANCE
My Lords, the Judiciary exists to serve, and the community that entrusted us with high office deserves an account of what we did with the time and resources made available to us in 2022. We recognise that our judicial independence, which we guard jealously, must include both personal and institutional accountability. It is in line with this duty to give account and in the spirit of it, that I provide an overview of our work in 2022. But before I do so, My Lords, I must revisit a promise I made at the beginning of my speech that I would concern myself with the issue of the quality of justice.
It should be evident to all by now, that as needed, His Excellency the Governor as advised by the Judicial Service Commission has provided us with judges and Magistrates, to keep the wheels of justice turning.
I recognize that despite this effort, we have not always met the expectation of the society we exist to serve: In areas of the grant of Probate, there have been some complaints about the speed and quality of our work. In the area of taxation of costs also, there have been complaints of unacceptable delays. Attorneys and litigants have sometimes been exasperated with getting delayed or no responses to enquiries made at the Registry.
In the criminal courts, questions of efficiency have been raised regarding the listing of cases, and the effect of having fixed and warned trials at the Supreme Court, which have sometimes left witnesses bewildered when cases they have prepared for have been adjourned without an explanation they can appreciate.
We strive but are hard pressed to clear the backlog of criminal cases, sometimes leading to long periods of remand.
Regarding the long periods of remand, in this month of January, the Supreme Court, sitting at Grand Turk will do a bail review hearing which should alleviate for some, a long period on remand without trial.
I thank all the court users who, having been confronted with these issues have not walked away in despair, but have made reports to my office, seeking an explanation, assistance or redress.
The promise I make is that these issues are not being treated lightly; efforts are on course to addressing them until they become problems of the past.
Regarding the speed of proceedings all the way to disposal, we will say that shall endeavour to speed up where possible with the co-operation of parties and counsel. The appointment of an additional judge which will be in the next few months, will most certainly have a significant impact to reduce the present backlog of criminal cases.
Our judges and Magistrates are committed to working very hard to fulfil the mandate we have been entrusted with which is, to be the watchdog of the Constitution, administering justice with independence, the requisite knowledge of the law, fairness and equity. We shall continue to do so regardless of praise or criticism; always endeavouring to turn criticism into an opportunity to do better.
SUPREME COURT AND COURT OF APPEAL
My Lords, this is an overview of our work at the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, in 2022.
We carried over 94 pending criminal cases from 2021. In 2022 58 new cases representing a wide range, being: burglary, murder, forgery, corruption, robbery rape, sexual assault drug and firearm offences, were filed. Sadly, firearm offences make up about 40% of the charges.
Altogether, 50 cases were disposed of by the court sitting in Grand Turk and Providenciales, leaving 101 active pending cases which are at various stages in the criminal trial process.
As I reported last year, upon the severing of the Information in the case of R v. Michael Misick in June 2021, the first of the cases: being R v. Floyd Basil Hall and 3 Ors commenced in July 2021 and is in its final stages. I am confident that we shall see the end of the trial by the end of the first quarter of this year, to be followed by the second trial: R v. Michael Misick and 2 Ors.
Civil 91 civil cases were carried over from 2021. In 2022, 232 civil cases were filed, of this number, 180 cases were disposed of. 32 Family cases were carried over form 2022. 62 new cases were filed in 2022, 75 cases were disposed of.
I cannot help but commend the three judges that handled the civil docket so expertly in 2022 and produced such outstanding results: Mr. Justice Simons KC, Acting Judge Hyton, O.J. KC and Mr. Justice Gruchot.
Court of Appeal
At the Court of Appeal, 19 cases were carried over from 2021. In 2022 new appeals were filed, these 5 appeals were determined.
A total of 3411 matters were pending throughout the Magistrate courts, with a total of 895 matters disposed of, throughout the Magistrate courts.
This is the breakdown: In the Magistrate’s Court at Providenciales and North Caicos, a total of 2825 including traffic matters were in various stages of hearing and 743 were disposed of. In Grand Turk & South Caicos, a total of 586 matters were also in various stages of hearing with 152 were disposed of. New matters filed were made up of 338 criminal complaints in Providenciales and North Caicos, 98 in Grand Turk and South Caicos, 70 traffic complaints in Providenciales and North Caicos, 49 in Grand Turk and South Caicos, 766 traffic tickets, 212 civil matters, in Providenciales and North Caicos, 30 in Grand Turk and South Caicos 101 family matters in Providenciales and North Caicos, 36 in Grand Turk and South Caicos, 7 adoptions in Providenciales and North Caicos, 31 NIB complaints in Providenciales and North Caicos, none in Grand Turk and South Caicos.
My Lords, I am happy to announce that court-connected mediation is slowly but surely taking its rightful place as a trusted way of resolving disputes. In 2022, 81% of the cases referred to mediation were concluded, and 69% were settled through mediation. The breakdown is as follows: of the 32 matters referred, 26 matters were concluded in this manner: – 18 matters were settled through the mediation process; – 5 matters were not settled. 1 matter was returned to Magistrate’s Court due to the death of one of the parties; 1 matter was withdrawn due to non-compliance of one of the parties and 1 matter was withdrawn as one of the parties withdrew consent.
There are 6 pending matters, all of which are scheduled for mediation early this year 2023, including a co-mediation with one of our partners: Dialogue Solutions of Trinidad and Tobago.
My Lords, in this year 2023, our strategic goals will be the continuing goals of improving speed and quality of our work as adjudicators, achieving outright digitization, concentrating of providing fit for purpose infrastructure, strengthening and expanding alternative dispute resolution and continuing judicial education.
I respectfully provide an update of our upcoming and continuing projects.
My Lords, finally, I am happy to report that we have since 23rd December 2022, signed a contract with Caribbean Agency for Justice solutions to provide us with the Apex Curia Suite. The said product, offered by a company with a proven track record in a number of jurisdictions in the Region, will change the way we conduct business at the courts as it will deliver to us, the twenty-first century technological advancement of an electronic paperless court, including e-filing.
There are many people to thank for this journey’s end, and I acknowledge them all, but decline to name them for fear of unintentionally leaving out other contributors. It suffices to say that this delectable cuisine, like our other initiatives, has had many cooks. Even so, it will be remiss of me not to mention the immense contribution of our Acting Registrar Mr. Narendra Lalbeharry. It is not an exaggeration to say, that just when I was poised to walk away from it all, believing that it was an impossible dream, he stepped up to the plate, and helped to revive it. Therefore, to Mr. Lalbeharry and all others who must remain nameless, I say thank you for your faith in digitization, and in the Apex Curia Suite in particular, and your contribution to the process of bringing this product home.
In a few weeks, the company will begin its work which will end with implementation and the provision of training to the Bench, our court staff, the Bar and court users. Our excitement knows no bounds, as we eagerly anticipate a fully digitized court which will make our work more efficient and effective and place our judiciary on the map of twenty-first century significance. Very shortly, we shall commence in-house scanning of documents and I shall issue a Documents Policy to court users, on how long we shall keep originals of documents in our custody.
The Courts Complex, Providenciales
My Lords, I am also happy to report that the Courts Complex, Providenciales expected to cost about US$21 Million is gradually moving towards realisation. We thank the Hon. Premier for including this project in the Government’s Ten Priority Projects. Preliminary work which includes some architectural work, identification of siting, and other important work has already begun. We are grateful for a good working relationship with the officials of the Ministry of Infrastructure and thank the Minister for our continuing collaboration.
We hope that the pace will pick up in 2023, and that the US$3 million voted last year will hopefully be put to use at this preliminary stage. We are confident that with renewed vision and zeal, we shall this year take some more steps towards the realisation of our dream, which is to construct a monument to justice that will cater for the accommodation needs of the court by providing courtrooms, conference rooms, ancillary services such as Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms, a Supreme Court library, proper storage facilities, and proper disabled access, to name a few.
A New Magistrate’s Court – North Caicos
My Lords, In 2021, I expressed the view that the time had come to provide the residents of North and Middle Caicos and South Caicos with court buildings dedicated to the cause of justice. The statistics bear me out. In 2022, South Caicos heard a total of 78 cases, and North Caicos, 48 cases. These numbers are sizeable for places with only periodic court sittings, hence the need for court buildings.
I am happy to announce that the retrofitting of the North Caicos Magistrate’s Court by the Ministry of Infrastructure has been completed. It remains for the Judiciary to provide the needed courthouse furnishing which is going through the procurement process. When this is done – which we hope will be quite soon – we hope to commission the building for the use of the Magistrate as a courthouse, in line with the access to justice policy, which is aimed at bringing justice to the doorstep of every inhabitant of these islands.
The Coroner’s Court office
My Lords, I have already provided a background to the project to house a dedicated Coroner. The target period for this to be completed is the first quarter of this year.
My Lords, juvenile justice is lagging behind in these islands for lack of proper infrastructure. Pending the provision of a proper juvenile court within the new courts’ complex, I intend as practicable, to repurpose our infrastructure, as necessary, to provide juvenile friendly spaces in our courts which will enable our Magistrates to properly apply the Juvenile Court Rules.
In this regard it is my fervent desire that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will complement these efforts by providing a suitable place for keeping juvenile offenders, in order that the treatment of our juveniles will meet internationally accepted standards.
Mental Health Facility for Criminal Justice:
My Lords, we have for some time now been in a dilemma regarding the treatment of mentally challenged persons who find themselves in the criminal justice system. We have therefore for some time now, taken up the issue of providing a place to keep persons with mental health challenges, persons who upon arraignment, are unfit to plead, or having gone through trial, are given the verdict of “Guilty but insane”.
I am happy to announce that our representations to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse for an intervention have yielded a positive step forward: there has been reserved for the criminal justice system, two rooms with four beds in a mental health facility which has recently become operational at Grand Turk. We are grateful to Dr. Alicia Malcolm for her kindness and assistance in this regard, and hope that in time, we may perhaps be given some more rooms and beds as necessary.
The Criminal Justice Stakeholders’ Group (CJSG)
My Lords, the Judiciary continues to enjoy the collaboration and cooperation of six criminal justice institutions in the discharge of its criminal justice mandate. Referred to as the Criminal Justice Stakeholders Group (CJSG), this group of seven: the Judiciary, the Attorney General’s Chambers, The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, The Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force, the Department of corrections and Rehabilitation, the Department of Social Development and the Bar Association of the Turks and Caicos Islands, worked throughout 2022 to fulfil our core mandate of encouraging best practices to improve the administration of criminal justice, applying as much as practicable, a multi-agency collaborative approach.
In 2022, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions successfully launched what started out as a CJSG initiative but became wholly owned and executed by the ODPP: the Victims and Witness Support Unit.
The VWSU is working well and as part of its mandate of providing emotional support, has collaborated with the Judiciary in court familiarization tours for nervous witnesses at the Supreme Court, both in Providenciales and at Grand Turk.
As one of the strategies to prevent crime, especially among young persons who may lack role models, the CJSG’s mentorship programme in primary and high schools continues to be executed with the Department of Social Development.
So far, a Judge, the Director of Public prosecutions, Resident Magistrates, attorneys from the private and public Bar, and a Minister of State, have volunteered to speak to, and engage with our young ones. The programme is expected to continue and we hope to have persons in high office sign up to steer our young population from the lure of criminal activity by encouraging them to aspire to heights attainable through education and honourable living.
In 2022, the CJSG included Community Engagement in our Strategic Plan. The single activity we were able to carry out in this regard, was our participation in a football tournament. This year, we hope to do more to engage with the public, and it is our hope that members of the public will participate in our activities which we shall publish as soon as practicable.
May I refer to something else that we have achieved with great pride: our newsletter Justicia which has issued its third edition to much praise.
May I also take this opportunity to thank our editorial team made up of: Ms. Tamika Grant -Editor in Chief; Ms. Aisha de Four – Secretary/Editor; Mr. Selvyn Hawkins (President of the Bar Council) – Editor; Dr. Gatang-McCartney – Editor; Mr. Jaron Harvey – Editor, Mr. Antonio Emmanuel – Editor, Superintendent Calvin Chase Editor, and lately Ms. Tassja Mitchell Editor, for their hard work. We hope that a fourth issue will not be long in coming, to inform all of our collaborative work.
The Bench/Bar/Law Enforcement Meeting
My Lords, this meeting is drawn from CJSG membership, but is quite distinct from it. This is a meeting of members of the institutions with the objective of encouraging interinstitutional dialogue in relation to the day-to-day problems of administering criminal justice. Chaired by the Chief Justice, it has the membership of the Director of Public Prosecutions and his Deputy, all judges and Magistrates, representatives from the Bar and the Commissioner of Police or his nominee. It is a forum for frank discussions and sometimes finger pointing, aimed at getting answers or improved performance. Some of the problems I have highlighted as complaints by court users, as for example, the problems with scheduling of cases are being addressed in this forum. We expect that our efforts in this new year will begin to bear fruits that will be seen by all, as improving the quality of justice in these islands.
My Lords, may I conclude, as I have done in previous years, by giving my personal pledge and the Judiciary’s pledge to be untiring in our efforts to improve the delivery of justice both as an institution, and also working with all our stakeholders.
I could also not be remiss in expressing my sincere gratitude to all our stakeholders already acknowledged, and to His Excellency the Governor (who has lived up to his title of being excellent in his work), The Honourable Premier, The Hon Deputy Premier, The Cabinet of the Turks and Caicos Islands, The Hon. Speaker of the House of Assembly, Her Excellency the Deputy Governor, The House of Assembly, the entire Bar Association of TCI, the Human Resources Directorate, DETI, Members of the Media, Rostered Mediators, and all our friends who work with us and/or assist us to deliver on our mandate.
I also thank you esteemed Judges and our Magistrates, as well as the administrators and staff of the Judiciary, who keep the courts running. May I dare to describe you all as the toast of the Turks and Caicos Islands in professionalism, and the boast of its legal sector in vision, focus and achievement.
Permit me My Lords, to express my personal thanks to my kind and selfless ADC Mr. Widlere Pierre who works hard to make my work easier. May I also thank Ms. Aisha de Four for excellent support.
Lastly, may I sincerely thank God, the enabler of all things who provides the vision and the strength to carry it through.
On that note, My Lords, distinguished guests, I now declare the 2023 Legal Year open and the courts ready for business.
I thank you all for your attention, and I wish you a very happy and productive 2023 Legal Year.