St Lucia government responds to suit by Belize judge
CASTRIES, St Lucia, Wednesday February 2, 2011 – The St Lucia government has responded to reports that a former Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court of Appeal judge is suing it for not paying pension benefits after his retirement from the court, contending that it was not his employer.
It said that St Lucia serves as a jurisdiction only for the purpose of assessing pension due to judges and it was the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) that employed Justice Denys Barrow, the brother of Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow.
Justice Barrow announced his law suit last week. He said that he had filed a claim on January 14 against the St Lucia government and that the Stephenson King administration had "been simply ignoring the claim, latterly refusing to even acknowledge receipt of letters of inquiry."
But the government has sought to set the record straight.
It said in a statement that Justice Barrow submitted a claim for pension benefits sometime in 2010 after his resignation from the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal. That submission was made three years after sitting on the bench of the Court of Appeal.
"The Government of St Lucia...requested opinions from the Judicial and Legal Services Commission. The JLSC was of the opinion that Justice Barrow was not entitled to pension as he had resigned before fulfilling the minimum criteria for the grant of a pension," it said.
The government said it sought the opinion of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal on the question of Justice Barrow's pension specifically and to clarify the law on pension for judges sitting on the courts in St Lucia and the OECS generally. The Court of Appeal, it said, agreed with the JLSC.
"Their Lordships opined that Justice Denys Barrow did not qualify for pension benefits as he did not meet the benchmark requirements under the Pensions Act of St Lucia and Rates of Pension Judges Act, No: 12 of 1989. It should be noted that Justice Denys Barrow had the benefit of legal representation during the sitting in question," the government said.
"The Government of St Lucia is therefore guided by the opinion of the OECS Supreme Court on this matter. However, the Government wishes to reiterate its position that it is not our intention to withhold any benefits due to Justice Denys Barrow. The Government stands prepared to pay any benefits it is required to pay in accordance with the law."
Justice Barrow had blamed the lack of a pension for his decision to tender his resignation, effective February 28, from his current job as a Court of Appeal judge in Belize.
He said that "having returned at the end of 2008 to Belize and to private practice, I later decided I could afford to leave private practice and become a judge in Belize because I treated the expected pension benefits as part of my financial resources. That expectation having been removed, I must now adjust."
Justice Barrow said he would be returning to private practice.