February 22, 2013
CCJ rules on the rights of senior civil servants

Fri Feb 22, 2013

by Roxaine Smith,
Norman Manley Law School

Are you a Civil Servant? If so, then you should know that it is possible for Parliament to abolish your office in the interest of efficiency. In such a case, you would not be permitted to claim salary and other ongoing benefits previously attached to that position.{{more}} You may or may not be entitled to compensation for breach of contract, based on the surrounding circumstances of your particular case, but where you are compensated by an accelerated payment of a pension from the abolition of your office, this may be considered adequate compensation for your loss of employment.

Mr Winton Campbell’s position as the Chief Electrical Engineer in the Electrical Engineering Department of Barbados was abolished by a Parliamentary Order and he was invited to head a unit that was to be set up in the Ministry of Transport and Works. However, Mr Campbell’s desire was for his immediate return to his previous position. This was unsatisfactory to the Government, but Cabinet agreed that he should be fully compensated in relation to retiring benefits.

Mr Campbell brought proceedings against the Attorney General of Barbados, claiming that his office had not properly been abolished, so that he was entitled to the salary and other benefits attached to that office; alternatively, he claimed that he was entitled to damages. His claims were dismissed. The Court of Appeal ruled that the Government may lawfully abolish any office in the public services by a Parliamentary Order and that provisions under the Barbados Constitution were inapplicable to cases where a public office was abolished.

Mr Campbell appealed to the Caribbean Court of Justice. He claimed that, under the Constitution, he could only be removed from the public service by the Governor General, after he was afforded the right to refer the matter to the Barbados Privy Council. However, the CCJ dismissed his appeal. The Court decided that abolition by Parliament of a unique public office “is one way in which there is retirement from the public service,” because it extinguished Mr Campbell’s office. Mr Campbell did not present any arguments or evidence to challenge the Parliamentary Order by judicial review. Mr Campbell was found to be adequately compensated by payment of accelerated pension.

In its decision, the CCJ judges commented unfavourably on the years of delay in the lower courts. The CCJ underscored the right of parties to receive justice within a reasonable time. It re-emphasized its view that courts should normally deliver judgments within three months, as lengthy delays in judgment could undermine confidence in the justice system.

This summary is intended to assist the Caribbean public in learning more about the work of the CCJ. It is not a formal document of the Court. The judgment of the Court is the only authoritative document and may be found at http://chooseavirb.com/ccj/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/cv2_2008.pdf