Chief Justice of Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal, Dame Janice Pereira , has lamented the ‘shocking’ state of court houses in the regional bloc and has called on governments to urgently address the matter.
Speaking via a simulcast from St. Lucia during the opening of the new Law Year in the OECS on Monday, she said it is the responsibility of states and territories to finance the judiciary.
“The court cannot achieve true accessibility and equal access to justice in a vacuum,” she noted. “It must be adequately funded. It is the states and territories’ responsibility to provide adequate financial resources to the judiciary and I dare say this ought not to be chased after by the judiciary …”
She argued that states are responsible for providing the judiciary with adequate physical facilities and related infrastructure.
“The courtrooms and other facilities in many of our member states and territories are in deplorable conditions and have been for several years,” she stated. “There are some deficiencies that are so basic as to be shocking.”
Justice Pereira expressed her deep disappointment that the Halls of Justice Project, which was formulated by the court for the construction of adequate facilities in the OECS, has been discussed for more than a decade and nothing has been done.
“If our citizenry is to truly enjoy access to justice in a way that is effective and meaningful, these deficiencies must be addressed, not another decade from now, but as a matter of urgency,” she stated.
To drive home her point, the Chief Justice pointed out that dilapidated court houses are not compatible with the e-technology the court wishes to use.
“Much of the e-technology which the court wishes to utilize for bringing greater efficiency into the system and for streamlining and simplifying various court processes that are more beneficial to the public are simply incompatible with archaic, dilapidated and dysfunctional physical spaces and buildings which lead to frustration and the part of court users and leave much to be desired in instilling a sense of purpose, importance and confidence by the public in the courts,” she stated.
She called on governments within the regional bloc to address the matter with urgency.
“I take this opportunity to once again to call upon all states to urgently discuss these matters,” she noted. “A certain view held by many that the judiciary is a third cousin of the state is one that must be eschewed and should be forever banished.”