CCJ criticizes Judiciary and lawyers for excessive delays
Accusing the judiciary in Barbados of not delivering justice in a timely manner, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has strongly condemned the local courts’ “excessive and inordinate” delays in resolving cases.
But the Trinidad-based court reserved even harsher words for prominent Barbadian Queen’s Counsels Vernon Smith and Hal Gollop as well as their associate Steve Gollop, charging them with abusing the judicial process.
Those criticisms were leveled by CCJ president Justice Sir Dennis Byron yesterday, in a judgment in which the regional court dismissed a case brought by the three lawyers. The case surrounded a land deal that went sour and was brought by Smith, Gollop and Gollop on behalf of land developer Systems Sales Ltd, against Arletta Brown-Oxley, the executrix of the estate of now deceased Glenfield DaCosta Suttle and his widow Sonja Patsena Suttle.
On January 12, 2015, the legal team filed an application asking the CCJ to give them time to file a notice of appeal against earlier decisions of the High Court and the Court of Appeal in Barbados which went in favour of the Suttles.
In November last year, the CCJ delivered a similar ruling in this matter, but it was later refiled by the lawyers who protested that the judgment was published in the media before being communicated to the litigants and their legal representatives.
In yesterday’s rejection of the application for leave, the panel of judges said it took the Barbados courts 16 years to resolve this matter, but noted the regional court was able to return judgment within six months on the grounds that the application had no realistic chance of succeeding at appeal.
But the CCJ accused the attorneys of seeking to further deny the respondents their rightful due, even after a protracted delay in the local courts.
In delivering the decision on behalf of the panel, Sir Dennis said the trio sought leave to appeal the earlier ruling although there was no realistic chance of success.
“Something must be done to correct this harm to litigants. The court has usually commented on the judicial default in this area and, in this case, the judiciary has to accept responsibility for the inordinate delay in bringing this case to justice,” the CCJ ruled.
It noted that the matter was not a complex one, yet it took seven years from filing to judgment and eight years from trial judge to appellate judgment.
“This is a process which should take no more than two and a half years. It is time that the judiciary in Barbados adopt practices that prevent this type of denial of justice.”
The court added that all parties, including the applicant, were being prejudiced.
“In this case where the CCJ has already ruled that there is no merit in the appeal, it is unconscionable that the litigant should be burdened with expenses when there is no reasonable expectation of any benefit accruing. It would not be fair to the applicant for the court to allow expenses to accrue when it is already known that there is no realistic chance of success,” the judgment stated.
The court also contended that the conduct in bringing the case, using a wrong process, and having no realistic chance of success, fell into the category of improper, unreasonable and negligent conduct.
In dismissing the case and making an order for wasted costs, the CCJ ruled that there be no further proceedings in this matter without leave of the tribunal.
After the CCJ’s first ruling on the matter in November 2014 which he called unjust, Queen’s Counsel Gollop strongly advised other countries that have not joined on to the CCJ to stay away from the regional court.