Prominent attorney takes strong offence to CCJ ruling

He was among three prominent Barbadian attorneys who were recently criticized by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) for their handling of an appeal case.

And Queen’s Counsel Vernon Smith is not taking the matter lying down.

Following the court’s dismissal last Thursday of a submission filed by him and two others – Hal Gollop, QC and Steve Gollop –– Smith told Barbados TODAY he was “very offended” by the judgment handed down by the Trinidad-based court in the appeal case brought by Systems Sales Ltd.

In fact, he described it as “diatribe”, while expressing outrage that the regional court, which is this island’s final court of appeal, had spent more time criticizing the legal applicants and other members of the Barbadian judiciary, rather than dealing with points of law or their submissions.

Queen’s Counsel Vernon Smith
Queen’s Counsel Vernon Smith

“When I read it [the judgment], I was absolutely amazed. It was a judgment by way of diatribe.

It dealt with no issues whatsoever related to anything we had submitted or any points of law that we had raised in the whole matter,” Smith declared.

The Queen’s Counsel also said the CCJ judgment was not the norm, even before the UK-based Privy Council.

“I took strong objection to the fact that the judgment was about criticizing and denigrating the judges of our High Court and Court of Appeal; and also denigrating junior counsel who had dealt in the matter by alleging negligence on their part,” added Smith.

The senior attorney-at-law also sought to defend his reputation, saying he had nothing to do with the proceedings until the application for special leave to appeal came before the court.

“I did not have anything to do with the drafting of the application for the appeal; and to suggest and imply negligence on the part of Mr Gollop and myself in the matter is highly deplorable.

“Even to make [these criticisms] of junior counsel, is not what a court should do. Courts should not make value judgments of that sort, especially if they have not looked at any point of law which was referred to them,” Smith suggested.

In its February 12, 2015 judgment, CCJ president Justice Sir Dennis Byron noted that it had taken the Barbados courts 16 years to resolve the matter involving 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.

And in a scathing attack on Barbadian judges, the court accused them of  “denying parties justice through inordinate delays in concluding cases”.

Smith has responded saying the CCJ was not the kind of court with which Barbados should be associated.

“And I would recommend that no other country in the Caribbean adopts them as a court of appeal, especially a final court of appeal,” he told Barbados TODAY.

“The CCJ is a Barbados court. I did not go to Trinidad and I would not go to Trinidad in a foreign jurisdiction to have a case in which I am involved, where all the parties are Barbadians. The cause of action is in Barbados and the property is in Barbados. I am not going in any foreign jurisdiction for a case like that to be heard,” Smith declared.

He noted that the court made reference to respecting the bench, but he was adamant that respect must go both ways.

“And from their [CCJ] conduct of the proceedings in respect of me, I don’t see how they could ever, ever expect to have my respect. I want the people of this country see what has happened when they moved away from the Privy Council,” said an angry Smith.

The topic of Barbados’ involvement in the CCJ also came up in the House of Assembly today where

Minister of International Business Donville Inniss said there was something fundamentally wrong with the fact that 10 years after the establishment of the court, Barbados, which was the first to sign on and pay all its dues, still did not have a judge on that panel.

“And there are those who sit in lofty positions in this country, who I can hear this morning saying that that should not be an issue; that the CCJ is there for everybody [and] we should not make nationality an issue,” Inniss pointed out.

However, he pointed out that two Barbadians recently applied to be judges on the CCJ “and not one was successful” even though “another Trinidadian got through”.

He also highlighted the fact that while Trinidad was the court’s headquarters, it did not support the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ.


10 Responses to Diatribe!

  1. NAKED DEPARTURE - The Trilogy Series
    NAKED DEPARTURE - The Trilogy Series February 18, 2015 at 6:13 am

    Barbadians are bullies and the Caribbean community is tired of you. They’ve had it! That’s what the judgment said…we are tired of you and your bullying ways.

  2. Sheri Veronica
    Sheri Veronica February 18, 2015 at 6:42 am

    Vernon Smith has enjoyed and worked within a broken, almost non existent [in]justice system for so long, I am not surprised by his reaction to the CCJ’s ruling. Tell him for me that I too am sick and tired of the way legal matters are stretched out, delayed and clients robbed by attorneys there. This is not a diatribe — this is my truth.

    • Wayne P Hoyte
      Wayne P Hoyte February 18, 2015 at 9:32 am

      legal matters are stretched out based on several factors.

  3. Rawle Spooner
    Rawle Spooner February 18, 2015 at 7:34 am

    Once again this proves how stupid politicians in Barbados are signing on to a court pretty much propping it up with taxpayer money having no judge on it also having it base in another island that really don’t care to join it and then complaining when Barbados or it’s citizens get the shaft.Seriously all this talk about education in Barbados seem to gone to waste this court reminds me a lot of LIAT we prop it up the most but get least benefits funny thing islands that have not sign on have judges on it Barbados got to realise they ain’t gine be any Caricom unity it’s only a pipe dream period.

    • Frederick Alleyne
      Frederick Alleyne February 18, 2015 at 9:03 am

      If they had gone to the Privy Counsel and the same decision handed down, I wonder what they would have said?

  4. Tony Webster February 18, 2015 at 8:06 am

    The CCJ has spoken; several times; and in unmistakable terms. The “legal linen” is out on the laundry-line, in full public view. It might be “nominally exalted”, ostensibly of “silk”; but it doan look clean; and the smell is awful. It most likely exudes the odour…of it’s owners.
    Come on guys…redeem yourselves. The hour is late…and the scales have fallen from our eyes: just “clean house”…linens… silks, and if the really bad apples don’t end up in Dodds, they can look to a new career. The Bajan public…just can’t tek it no more!

  5. Heather Cole
    Heather Cole February 18, 2015 at 8:29 am

    All the CCJ did was to shake up that Old Boys Club and he is offended? They should have been fined for all of the tactics used to delay justice.

  6. Brimstone February 18, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Barbados Judiciary stinks to high heaven……… When the attorneys and judges start doing what they are paid and sworn to do, things will get better.
    Holding people’s property and/or rights against their will is a criminal offence, and the perpetrators should be prosecuted.
    This is just damage control, after being caught with both hands in the cookie jar…….

  7. Patrick Blackman February 18, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    These guys should be disbarred period. No respect at all.

  8. J. Payne February 18, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    LOL. Barbadian politicians just learned they GAVE UP their independence and went with another court in another foreign country. Difference between having a regional court in the UK V.S. a regional court in Trinidad. Both are foreign countries.


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