Sir Dennis Rejects Notion of a Separate Court of Appeal for Jamaica

Prime Minister Bruce Golding made his views known during debate in the Jamaican parliament, last December, indicating that the matter of acceptance or rejection for the CCJ should be put to the Jamaican people in a referendum.

But Sir Dennis, rejected Mr. Golding’s recommendation and explained that, “I firmly believe in the court itself, and its importance to the people of the Caribbean community, in helping to establish social stability, economic development and regional integration.

Sir Dennis said that he is absolutely in support of the court which is located in Trinidad but to date only recognized by three Caribbean nations, namely Barbados, Belize and Guyana.

Meanwhile, the man who Justice Byron will be replacing in August, Michael de la Bastide, criticized the position of the Jamaican Prime Minister. He said that it,(the establishment of a Jamaican Court of Appeal), would not be in the best interest of the Caribbean region and its people.

The CCJ was established in April, 2005 but the idea of the court was first discussed some 35 years ago.

It was at a meeting in Jamaica in March 1970, that the Organization of Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Associations (OCCBA) recognized the need for a regional court of appeal in the Caribbean to replace the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the court of last resort. One month later, again in Jamaica, the Commonwealth Caribbean Heads of Government expressed support for the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council and referred the question of establishing a Caribbean court of appeal to a committee of Attorneys-General from the region.

At the same time the need was also recognized for a regional court to adjudicate disputes between members of the then proposed Commonwealth Caribbean Economic Community. These then were two fundamental and deeply felt needs – the need for a final court of appeal bedded physically, culturally and jurisprudentially in the region, and the need for a court to adjudicate disputes between members of what has now developed into a single economic entity. The creation of a single institution to fill both these needs was lauded by regional officials.

Regional Courts are not new to the Caribbean. During the colonial era there was the itinerant West Indian Court of Appeal on which sat the Chief Justices of the colonies which it served, and between 1958 and 1962 the Federal Supreme Court which earned an excellent reputation during its short life. Both of these courts were intermediate courts of appeal from which appeals lay to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

Today the independent States that make up the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States share a Supreme Court which provides each Member State with a High Court and all of them with a single Court of Appeal from which appeals still lie to the Judicial Committee. Regional courts have some obvious advantages especially for small countries. They enable countries to pool their resources and expertise and to share costs. They can also provide a bench of Judges which combines familiarity with the Region with a degree of detachment from individual members of the regional grouping. Our experience is that regional courts in the Caribbean have had at least a measure of success, both before and after Independence.

The CCJ, however, is a regional court with a difference. In fact, it is in many respects unique. It is unique first of all because it is really two courts in one, a court of first instance to interpret and apply the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and an appellate court, which offers itself as a replacement for the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

There has been less controversy over the Court’s original jurisdiction. It is felt that this is so because the need has been seen to make provision for compulsory adjudication by a tribunal of disputes arising between participants in the CSME.

The British Privy Council was Appellate Function established in 1833.

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