Saunders: Privy Council ill equipped
June 17, 2005
Saunders: Privy Council ill equipped

“The Judges of the Privy Council are most ill-equipped to perform the role of a final court of appeal for the people of this region.”

Justice Adrian Saunders made this assertion as he addressed the 10th Annual Hand over Ceremony of the Rotary Club of St. Vincent South last Saturday, June 11. {{more}}

His remarks seemed to meet the approval of the 100 or so persons gathered for the candle light dinner ceremony held at the French Verandah restaurant. The audience included several senior members of the local legal fraternity.

The Vincentian-born jurist, who sits on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), made it clear that he was not casting any aspersions upon the technical competence of their Lordships.

“In fact, for British society I have no doubt that they are probably among the finest judges that society can produce,” he said. Their deficiencies, he argued, came about because they lived on another continent and did not have “cultural or emotional ties to this region.”

Interestingly enough, it seemed as though the Privy Council also holds this view. According to Justice Saunders, a former national table tennis champion and headboy of the St. Vincent Grammar School, the Lords on the Privy Council, have, on several occasions, declined to adjudicate on certain matters, on the basis that “the local courts, with their knowledge of local conditions are far better equipped…”

In the case of the CCJ however, all judges are residents of the Caribbean. The distinguished group includes President of the Court, Michael de la Bastide, a former chief justice of Trinidad and Tobago; Rolston Nelson, a Trinidadian who was formerly a senior member of the Court of Appeal of Trinidad and Tobago; Duke Pollard, a Guyanese national who was formerly a legal consultant at the CARICOM desk, where he was an expert in the area of international law, Desiree Bernard, a Guyanese former chancellor of the Guyana Judiciary and the lone woman on the court; Jacob Wit, a Dutch national, who was the former Acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands Antilles and Curacao; David Hayton, a British citizen who was a law professor at the University of London, and Vincentian Adrian Saunders, former acting Chief Justice of the East Caribbean Court of Appeal.

According to Justice Saunders, “these judges will be able to bring to bear on their work their own life experiences and a reflection of the ethos of Caribbean society.”