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Ill justice

When one exhibits the signs and symptoms of illness you buy an over-the-counter remedy and if that fails to work you visit the doctor for a real diagnosis and prescription. Men are notorious for ignoring the obvious and it is usually left to the wife, mother or some other female to point out that the leg looks like it’s about to drop off, to call the doctor and sometimes usher them into the doctor’s office as well.

What is the point? The justice system in Barbados is seriously ill, the symptoms are now too obvious to be ignored and 99.99 per cent of those in charge of its well-being are male. We’ve applied plaster to open sores, we’ve bought the over-the-counter remedy and none of it has worked.

The old boys’ network needs to stop the back-slapping and ego-massaging and face the reality of the situation. While we are at it we all should endeavour to refrain from the Barbadian penchant for thinking that any criticism or comment, no matter how constructive, is a personal attack.

I hate to use “Americanisms” since most of them linguistically do not make sense, but I would suggest that a “bi-partisan” approach to the justice system in this country is absolutely necessary. The problem with the legal system is that it is divided strictly along political lines with a few uncommitted persons in the mix.

Barbados is too small for that nonsense. Regardless of the colour of a person’s political underbelly the decay and destruction of the system of justice anywhere in the world has the possibility to affect all citizens. As a matter of fact, section 18 of our Constitution guarantees the protection of the law to all persons, including “a fair hearing within a reasonable time”.

A bi-partisan approach is necessary because many of the initiatives required to fix the system require serious funding and it appears to me that those in the positions of power seem to think that treating the court system as the runt of the litter is a good course of inaction. Of course, if you manage to fix it then there would be nothing to criticise and politicians always appear to favour the negative.

I would prefer to go down in the annals of history as the person who revolutionised the system of justice in Barbados rather than be immortalised in infamy as the person who presided over its demise. History is rarely ever kind to those who fail to take up the mantle.

We as Barbadians also have a tendency to seek only the opinions of the “higher-ups” and “better-offs”. Speaking only to such persons who occupy a rarefied atmosphere does no one any good. Yes, seek their opinions, but also randomly visit the third floor of the Supreme Court Building and speak to the litigant who has been coming to court for three years seeking maintenance and who does not get paid while she sits in the precincts of the court from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. without seeing the judge.

Speak to people who are repeatedly told that their files cannot be found so that the court cannot hear their matter — again. Speak not only to venerable Queen’s Counsel but also to the attorney who has less than 10 years’ call at the Bar, they too have an opinion and are much better able to tell you about the failings of the system since no one caters to them and no one cares whether they earn any money or not.

Speak to the judge who is expected to hear 30 odd matters every day, including family, civil and trials and let them tell you that it is impossible to dispense justice in those circumstances.

The court is a public building so perhaps the people who hide behind the blogs and spew their drivel should try visiting the bus stand that is the third floor of the Supreme Court and see it live and in living colour. The same way they get their gossip they should also let the same people tell them that the much touted JEMS project which would supposedly revolutionise the system requires funding that the governments refuse to provide as well as specialist courts which we do not have.

As to investigative journalism in Barbados, the paper that printed the article about the division in the Bar should look for the story behind the story, the hundreds of letters to those who have the power to act and do nothing and forget the scandalbroth. Do not let your hatred of lawyers blind you to the truth.

I think I’ve ranted enough for now.

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