PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, Thursday, April 26, 2012 – Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced yesterday (April 25) evening that her government would be taking to parliament legislation to secure the abolition of appeals to the British-based Privy Council in all criminal matters so in favour of ceding this authority to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
This major development follows a commitment made by Persad-Bissessar at the recently-concluded CARICOM Heads OF Government Conference in Suriname that her government would review our approach to this matter on her return home.
The prime minister said in yesterday’s statement from her office that it was following this review that her administration agreed to table the legislation.
The former lawyer said she recognised that the measure would require a special majority and she called for bipartisan support for this historic withdrawal from the criminal jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
“As a measure of our growing confidence in the CCJ, and as a mature and leading world democracy, in this year of our 50th independence anniversary, we will table legislation acceding to the criminal appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ, in very much the same way as other countries have similar to Hong Kong prior to the transfer of sovereignty to the Peoples Republic of China in 1979 and Singapore in 1989. There is ample precedent for such a phased withdrawal from the jurisdiction of Her Majesty’s Privy Council,” said Persad-Bissessar.
She added that she had also advised Chief Justice Ivor Archie, the Acting Chief Justice Wendell Kangaloo; the presidents of the Law Association and the Criminal Bar Association on this new direction yesterday.
“In so doing my Government affirms its commitment to deepening of the regional integration process and the development of a Caribbean jurisprudence and we view this step as a manifestation of that commitment,” said the Prime Minister.
She said the move signalled “a most historic development in the administration of justice in independent Trinidad and Tobago”.
Should the legislation pass, Trinidad and Tobago would become the fourth Caribbean jurisdiction to recognise the CCJ as its final court of appeal. The current nations who recognise the CCJ are Barbados, Belize and Guyana. This is despite the fact that 12 Caribbean nations are signatories to the court and financially support it.
Although Trinidad and Tobago agreed to host the CCJ since it was established in 2005, it has taken the past seven years for its government to get to the point of moving to legally recognise the court’s authority.