The Honourable Justices of Appeal, The Honourable Justices of the Supreme Court, His Honour the Chief Magistrate, The Honourable Attorney General of the Turks and Caicos Islands: Mrs. Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles QC OBE, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr. Eugene Otuonye, QC, the President of the Bar Association, Mrs. Oreika Selver-Gardiner, The Honourable Ms. Justice Tanya Lobban Jackson, Chair of the TCILII Committee, Ms. Mariya Badeva-Bright, Project Director AfricanLII, esteemed members of the TCI Bar Association, good morning.
This is a happy day indeed, and I welcome all distinguished, invited guests to the launch of TCILII.
I do not intend to make a long speech, just to place on record a number of matters connected with this launch.
The need for an informed Bench cannot be overemphasised, as “An independent, impartial, honest and competent Judiciary is integral to upholding the rule of law, engendering public confidence and dispensing justice…”
Competence, which is included in the said definition, demands that Judges and Magistrates be equipped with the tools of their trade, in order to deliver honest, informed and defensible judgments and rulings.
In a tiered judicial system, it is important that the judgments and rulings of Judges and Magistrates have regard to judicial precedent. The doctrine of stare decisis, that obligates courts to look to precedent when making their decisions, compels lower courts to apply the rationes of decisions of higher courts except where same are distinguishable or are themselves delivered per incuriam. Adherence to this ensures that decisions of sister jurisdictions, being of persuasive effect, are not elevated above binding decisions of our own courts.
Distinguished Colleagues, it is a blot on our jurisprudence for our courts to give decisions which are per incuriam, or simply fly in the face of binding decisions of higher courts. It is for this reason that every effort must be made to ensure that decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal which are courts of record, are made accessible to members of the Bench, the Legal fraternity, and indeed the entire public.
This is the reason for the introduction of TCILII which we launch today under the able leadership of The Honourable Ms. Justice Tanya Lobban-Jackson. Her Ladyship chaired the TCILII Committee which has by collaborative effort of our stakeholders, produced the finished product which we are about to see shortly.
What is TCILII? As you no doubt saw on your invitation cards, it stands for the Turks and Caicos Islands Legal Information Institute, now one of many LII’s in the world, notable among which are WorldLII, CanLII (Canada), BailII (British and Irish LII), AustLII (Australia), to name a few.
The LII’s are produced by non-profit organisations which promote legal information through structured and monitored internet law reporting, and the provision of legal resources. They do so to encourage competent and informed work in courts throughout the world. The LIIs have become a useful tool for lawyers throughout the Commonwealth as they are a repository of decided cases, accessible to everyone, often at no cost, and, very importantly, in a searchable format. Finding relevant cases on your questions of law is often as easy as entering keywords.
The TCI, without a system of law reporting, currently relies on the institutional knowledge of its Bench, and Bar for local precedents.
In my short time here, I have observed that the usual starting point for precedents cited by Counsel are decisions from England and Wales, and other Caribbean countries. Often, these cases are downloaded from BAILII because of the neutral citation numbers that the LIIs use.
TCI is the first country in the Caribbean Region to launch its own LII. I requested that it be customised, so that in addition to the regular offerings of LII’s, TCILII should promote scholarly thinking and enterprise, by providing a place for scholarly papers from the Bench and Bar to be placed, for our education and the education of many within the region who will access TCILII. It is also my hope that other countries in the region will follow our lead so as to broaden access to decisions made by regional courts.
TCILII is built and hosted by AfricanLII which is a programme of the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit at the Department of Public Law, University of Cape Town, South Africa.
My acquaintance with the LIIs started more than a decade ago when I worked with them to introduce the LII into the Kingdom of Swaziland (now Eswatini). The work that was done for Eswatini, was so impressive that at this time, SwaziLII is a respected LII reporting cases of Judges when they are delivered, putting judges on their toes to deliver reportable judgments, informing every person of the content of judgments, and growing the jurisprudence of that country, while improving the integrity of judgments produced by ensuring due adherence to the doctrine of stare decisis.
Knowing the track record of AfricanLII, and also being affiliated with its parent organisation DGRU, I sought them out, to explore the possibility of providing TCI with a LII.
The work of AfricanLII, has been provided free of charge to us, in response to that request, and this, in spite of the fact that before now, work on the African continent has been the remit of AfricanLII.
That AfricanLII has been able to do this for us, in a time of pandemic when travel is limited and physical work is severely compromised, must be commended, applauded, and celebrated.
TCILII will mean accessible judgments, and my hope is that future judgments will be informed by binding decisions of our courts.
Having placed these matters on record, I now proceed to thank AfricanLII for this wonderful gift, especially Ms. Mariya Badeva-Bright, and Ms. Vanya Karth both of AfricanLII, DGRU, University of Cape Town, and their team.
I also thank:
The Honourable Ms. Justice Tanya Lobban-Jackson, Chair of the TCILII Committee;
Ms. Renee McLean Registrar of the Supreme Court – Member
Ms Nalini Shiwram-Kulpa Court Administrator – Member
Mr. Selvyn Hawkins: Representative of the Bar Association – Member
Ms. Kerchelle Bain Secretary of the Bar Association – Member
Ms. Desiree Downes: Principal Crown Counsel, Legislative Drafting Division- Attorney General’s Chambers – Member
M.s Gogontle Gatang Senior Crown Counsel, Legislative Drafting Division – Attorney General’s Chambers – Member
Ms. Clemar B Hippolyte Principal Crown Counsel, Civil and Commercial Litigation Attorney General’s Chambers – Member, and
Ms. Tamika Grant – Crown Counsel- Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Member.
To the Committee, I say a big thank you all for the selfless service, the many hours of meeting, your diligence in seeing this project through, the excellence of your output, and the wonderful collaboration that has put TCI on the LII map.
On behalf of the entire legal sector of TCI, I salute you all and celebrate your achievement.
May I also thank my cherished partners in legal sector initiatives: the Honourable Attorney General, the Learned Director of Public Prosecutions, and the President of the Bar, for attending and contributing to this launch.
Finally, I cannot thank you enough, esteemed members of the Bar Association, for your continuing support of initiatives demonstrated by your attendance at this launch.
You will now hear from the Honourable Attorney General.
 Chapter 7 of Latimer House Principles 2003