The Government of Grenada announced last week that it has acquired the Second Floor of the Clico building on Young Street in St. George’s, which it said is currently being retrofitted to accommodate two (2) civil courts and the civil court administrative unit.
Legal Affairs Minister, Kindra Maturine-Stewart, who made the disclosure to reporters at last week Wednesday’s Post-Cabinet briefing, said the contractor, whose name was withheld, “has been working and will be working around the clock” to ensure that the space is “ready in the shortest possible time” to get the place ready for sittings of the court.
The minister also said government is also looking to secure the 3rd Floor of the building, which is currently occupied by the remaining staff of Clico in order to house the two (2) criminal High Courts.
“Government is currently in possession of the second floor of the Clico building and work has commenced affecting the necessary repairs…”, she said.
“With respect to the Third floor, it is anticipated that government will be in possession of same within the next week or so. Arrangements are presently being finalised to secure alternative accommodation of the remaining staff of Clico…and so very soon work will commence on the Third floor with the same sense of urgency,” the minister told reporters.
This new development follows the closure of the High Court facility in May last year at the LIME building on The Carenage in St. George’s, due to severe health concerns posed by radiation.
Speaking with THE NEW TODAY recently, President of the Grenada Bar Association (GBA), Attorney-at-Law Lisa Taylor, expressed disappointment that the High Court crisis is not yet resolved.
And although in making the announcement the Legal Affairs minister remained tightlipped as it relates to a timeframe for completing the retrofitting works at the Clico building, Attorney Taylor reminded THE NEW TODAY that “the minister has been out there saying in the public domain that she is expecting it (the court facility) to be ready for September.”
However, the GBA President finds this to be “very disappointing”.
“We have to remember (that) next year will be a year (one year) since we are without a court and I say that in the context that I don’t consider what we are experiencing with the temporary arrangements at parliament to be by any means a solution to the problem because that is very much a temporary thing and we don’t have the exclusive use even of the small space that we have there.
“The minister has gone in the public domain and said they are working to see it (Clico building) open by September (but) we think that it’s too far away and we (are) not happy about that.
In January, several lawyers staged a protest to express their frustration over government’s perceived laid back approach in dealing with the ongoing challenges within the judicial system.
One (1) month later in February, one of the affected lawyers, Attorney-at-Law Derick Sylvester expressed the view that an important constitutional provision is being violated, which if left unchecked, can evolve into a constitutional fiasco, referencing the delay of justice for those criminally charged, whose rights are being infringed upon due to the current lack of judges and the present state of the nation’s judicial system which is still without proper facilities.
Sylvester cited “a constitutional provision, which states that every person charged with a criminal offense must be tried within a fair and reasonable time by fair and partial tribunal established by law”.
Grenada’s legal system is also being plagued by other challenges, specifically with regards to the condition at the Supreme Court Registry.
At present, the decayed condition of the ledgers, including the permanent loss of records and under-staffing issues are yet to be addressed by goverenment.
Lawyers have also complained of the understaffed court transcription office which severely affects obtaining written transcripts required to facilitate appeals of both criminal and civil matters.
Minister Maturine-Stewart told last week media briefing that “considerations are being given to have two (2) additional courts, one (1) civil and one (1) criminal court to deal with the backlog” accumulated due to the closure of the courts in recent months.
“We are looking to have a total of six (6) courts operating in Grenada. Considerations are being given to have a resident master here in Grenada rather than one (1) who visits once per month for a week. We believe that this will play a crucial role in resolving pending case management matters and interim and other applications that are pending before the court”, she said.
The female minister also announced that “Cabinet has also approved the appointment of two (2) judicial research assistants” to assist judges by request of Madam Justice Paula Gilford, who is the Chief High Court Judge on the island.
These judicial research assistants, the minister explained, will work closely with the judges and will be responsible for conducting legal research, case briefing, reviewing legal documents, preparing drafts for reviews among other responsibilities.
Minister Kindra Maturine-Stewart also disclosed that Cabinet has appointed a transcriptionist to support the court reporting unit to help reduce the backlog in pending Appeal cases.
In addition, she said a sub-committee of the Cabinet is presently aggressively looking at the construction of Grenada’s Hall of Justice and has reviewed several existing and new draft plans for the building and will soon be engaging the Grenada Bar Association and the public on it.