Second court coming to clear up backlog of cases at High Court
Justice Brian Cottle
December 20, 2019
Second court coming to clear up backlog of cases at High Court

In January of 2020 there will be a second criminal court running simultaneously to the High Court at which Justice Brian Cottle presides.

This addition was announced by Justice Cottle himself, at the close of the assizes last week Friday, December 13.

His announcement follows references he made at the close of the last assizes in August of this year that the court was aware of the long list of pending cases. He further said that he and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) (Ag) Sejilla McDowall were attending to it, to get a realistic picture before reporting to the Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) Dame Janice Pereira, who would then make a decision on additions.

The judge’s comments in August were prompted by suggestions by attorney Jomo Thomas that it was of vital importance that a second criminal judge be appointed to deal with matters.

Last Friday, at the High Court, Cottle noted that the state of the list remains a cause for concern, and that prisoners spend a long time on remand before having a trial.

He continued that, they know that there are limited resources available, “But in the interest of Justice we think that a greater effort has to be made from the court to address the situation that we find ourselves in.”

In this vein, he announced, “I am happy to let you know that come January we propose to be running a second criminal court in that same time as the first one, in an effort to clear up the backlog of matters.”

If they are able to do that then the situation may be reverted to a position where a single judge would be able to carry out matters, he stated.

At this news, the DPP expressed that “I am delighted that there would be a change in operation as it regards our ability to complete more matters.”

However, she tempered her delight with concern that they still have five counsels charged with those matters at the office of the DPP.

“In as much as I’m excited, I do look forward to changes in our office as well, because naturally the change will spill over into other departments,” she commented.

Lawyer Thomas, also present, had the same sentiments, saying that he was “absolutely delighted” at the addition of a second judge.

“In January I think we would be well on our way to reducing our tremendous backlog. Because mi’lord the issue of the backlog is important to me, and it’s important I’m sure to our society is at large,” the lawyer continued.

He reiterated, as he had done in August, that sentences are being affected by the backlog because of the way the system works. Essentially, without any intention to do so, persons spend longer in prison than they might otherwise, because of the wait for their matters to have their days in court.