Golding aims to strengthen legal system

MANDEVILLE, Jamaica, November 1, 2007 – Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, has said that he will be charting a course, which is aimed at strengthening the country’s legal system, to ensure higher levels of efficiency. As part of the move, the courts will have greater financial autonomy. “I think that we undermine, we compromise the independence of the courts if they are hanging on hopes of getting a warrant at the end of each month. We need to determine, after discussion with the Ministry of Finance, how quickly we can give the courts their own cheque book but of course, with a limitation to the bank of how much they can draw,” the Prime Minister stated.

He was speaking at a function held in St. Elizabeth on Saturday (Oct. 27) to honour Chief Justice Zaila McCalla and President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Seymour Panton. The function was organized by the Cornwall Bar Association.

The Prime Minister told the gathering that the government is fully committed to the justice reform programme, which has been the subject of intense and considerable study by a special team working in conjunction with the Canadian Bar Association.

“I am pleased that in the report that was presented they have phased it and did not make it look undoable,” he said, noting that the “reform process needs a driver to ensure that recommendations can be transformed into decisions and decisions into actions”.

“It has to be someone with enormous experience,” he said “who commands the respect of not only the people in the legal profession but the country on a whole, and also someone who is passionate about the reform. We believe we have found such a person and we hope to make an announcement very soon.”

In the meantime, the Prime Minister noted that given some of the challenges that the country currently faces, new ground must be broken in certain critical areas as it relates to the courts and the administration of justice.

“The challenges, which both Chief Justice McCalla and Justice Panton face, will require great strength. It will require extraordinary leadership and I have every confidence in them. It is going to require boldness, foresight, perceptiveness, a willingness to go where others might not have gone,” he pointed out.

Prime Minister Golding expressed confidence in the two honourees, noting that they are persons of high integrity.

“An integrity that is uncompromisable and incorruptible is a requirement because the courts constitute the last bastion of our freedom. When governments stray from what is just, when Parliament strays from what is just, it is the court that steps in. I have every confidence in their capacity to provide leadership in the courts, I have every confidence that they will be able to respond to these enormous challenges that face us and face them in particular,” he stated.

He further encouraged all sectors of the society to lend support to the efforts of both members of the bench to safeguard and to maintain the standards that are a necessary requirement for the creation of a “just homeland”.

The fact of the matter is that our judicial system is overwhelmed, it is overloaded, it is under resourced. It is under provided for and correcting that is not going to be easy and it is not going to be cheap,” the Prime Minister said. (JIS)