Mon | Jan 23, 2017

CCJ letter wins Oneil Hall a Silver Pen award

Published:Saturday | February 21, 2015 | 12:00 AMRichard Mitchell

Oneil Hall, a 25-year-old PhD candidate, has been awarded the Gleaner's Silver Pen for a letter he penned to the editor on November 27, 2014.

Hall has wrestled for years with the politically contentious issue of whether Jamaica should embrace the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) or remain with the United Kingdom-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

In fact, six years ago, Hall wrote a similar letter to the editor in which his views were slightly different than they are today. At that time, he urged the country to establish its own final court of appeal.

Hall now believes that the CCJ is the best option, stating in his November letter that accessibility to the Privy Council is a huge roadblock to the average Jamaican.

"We need to be told the real cost associated with going to the Privy Council and that it is completely ludicrous that we have to apply for a United Kingdom visa before we can get justice," Hall said in his award-winning letter.

He also lamented that "justice cannot be only for those with UK visas and credit cards!"

In an interview with The Gleaner, Hall said it could cost more than $1 million to pursue a case in Jamaica's final appellate court in the UK. Hall said that while the CCJ has its headquarters in Trinidad, Jamaicans would not have to travel abroad to pursue justice.

"This is a big issue for me because you have to pay to go to the UK. A lawyer was telling me that it could cost a couple million dollars to go to the Privy Council. The common man cannot pay for that! While the CCJ is a travelling court, they can travel to Kingston, if needed, to conduct their proceedings," Hall said.

Hall, who describes his family as a "CARICOM family", is currently in the final months of his PhD studies in history at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus. Upon completion of these studies, he hopes to return to Jamaica to teach.

Since 1996, The Gleaner's Silver Pen award has been given to the person who submits the best letter in a given month. Past winners include Dr Hilary Ann Robertson-Hickling, Ian McDonald Ramsay, and Glen Cruickshank.