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Shortage of judges prompts crisis

St. John’s — A dire shortage of judges, aggravated by lengthy delays in securing judgments, is prompting a “crisis” in the country’s – and wider region’s – judicial system.

That’s according to eminent Antiguan QC Sir Gerald Watt, yesterday.

To support his conclusion, the attorney said for some time there has been a shortage of judicial officers in both the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court of Appeal and the region’s High Courts.

“I am very concerned the judiciary in the OECS – it’s not Antigua alone – is in serious crisis. It is in crisis. There’s a shortage of appeal court judges, a shortage of judges at first instance (High Court). In Antigua, certainly my matter is small, it is not a huge appeal record but I’ve been waiting from January to now, seven months, and we cannot get the notes of evidence,” Sir Gerald said.

He also lamented the lengthy periods attorneys and claimants have to wait to get transcripts of the stenographer’s notes of evidence from trials in court.

The QC said another legal officer complained he has been waiting years for note of evidence in three cases.

“Attorney general Justin Simon said there are three cases he has not got the notes of evidence for three years and something has got to be done. It is going to be a very, very serious situation because it is at the tipping point of breaking down,” he said.

Sir Gerald’s comments come several months after former Chief Justice Sir Hugh Rawlins noted that judges in the region are “burdened with work” which he said caused lengthy delays in the preparation of judgments.

Sir Hugh, who recently resigned, said, due to the short of adjudicators, High Court judges and appeal justices are faced with dozens of cases while in other jurisdictions judges face less than 10 cases.

He said the burden of the work could be the reason why more attorneys are not persuaded to become judges. (Antigua Observer)

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