Snail justice

I read with great interest your editorial in the Barbados Today of May 29, 2013 titled Why the sloth?.

Your reference to the Caribbean Court of Justice’s observations as to the inordinate, unconscionable, unreasonable and perhaps illegal delays encountered in Barbados’ judicial system, has been well advertised and documented for quite a few years and obviously, does not augur well for the future.

Nothing has been done and it is unlikely that anything will be done because the stock in trade of the legal profession is “time”. The more time wasted, the more our lawyers feel they are entitled to charge.

The way the system operates leaves you with the impression that those who run the whole thing and who happen to be practising lawyers and members of the Bar Association of Barbados, a trade union, believe that any change that would lead to a faster resolution of cases/complaints, would necessitate that they really expend greater effort and energy in order to justify their salaries or fees.

Let us not forget that there are approximately 900 lawyers with approximately 40 new lawyers being admitted every year.

It seems they believe that change may require that those who feel aggrieved by the present system, would have to bring their complaints before the CCJ at great expense which very few can afford, so they continue to do anything and everything to frustrate and financially exploit would-be litigants.

I speak from personal experience.

In 1974 I purchased land from the NHC. The lawyer I retained did absolutely nothing but lie to me. I complained to three chief justices, three registrars, the Barbados Bar Association, the Ombudsman, the members of a Commission of Enquiry, over the years.

In 2008 I retained two other lawyers, paid them approximately $19,000 but was compelled to terminate their services because of shoddy work and attempted further exploitation on their part.

The problem was further compounded by the fact that the Land Registry, despite a letter from the NHC clearly indicating that I had purchased and paid in full for the land, made several demands — demands such as an affidavit from the lawyer initially retained to handle the purchase of the land, affidavits from myself and my cousin (now deceased), a land survey inter alia on the basis that the lawyer I initially retained had claimed that the “documents were destroyed in a fire at his office”, the Registry thereby accepting that the application for a Certificate of Title could proceed under the Restoration of Title procedure.

More recently, it was decided that a claim for title should be advanced under the Doctrine of Adverse Possession”, given the amount of time that has elapsed, the fact that I have been billed for and paid all the relevant taxes and costs for de-bushing and maintaining the lot since 1974.

I retained another lawyer in February 2012. She was advised, as the Registrar’s letter of 2011 stated, to proceed to apply for the Certificate of Title under the Doctrine of Adverse Possession, and to file the necessary affidavit with supporting documentation.

It has taken over one year for the affidavit to be submitted. It has only been within the last week that I have been advised that she is awaiting a response from the Land Registrar who “is away until July” (presumably 2013).

I am now compelled to ask: Should he become incapacitated, or worse yet, should he die and therefore be unable to return to work “in July”, would I be asked to wait until The Resurrection hoping that he will resume duties at that time?

In the meantime, I continue to be unable to submit plans for to build upon, occupy or sell the lot. Surely this does not speak well of the administration of justice in Barbados! Neither does it support our government’s claim that “Barbados is open for business”.

I believe you will find this case to be unreasonable and unjustifiable in the extreme! I too ask, “Why the sloth”?

— Wendell Pilgrim

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