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Relinquish the Privy Council – Robinson

Published:Tuesday | March 3, 2015 | 3:00 AM

April 2015 will mark the 10th year of operations for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

The court was established to be the final appellate court for CARICOM member nations, including Jamaica.

Yet Jamaica continues to rely on the United Kingdom (UK)-based Privy Council, an arrangement Justice Patrick Robinson calls "outsourcing" and "inconsistent with modern trends".

Robinson, who was speaking recently to students at the University of the West Indies, deemed Jamaica's participation in the Privy Council no longer necessary.

"Like the tardy guest, Jamaica has overstayed its welcome. It is clear that Jamaica and the other countries still tied to the Privy Council are not wanted, and if they had any pride and self-respect, they would leave."

Robinson went on to quote Lord Phillips, the former president of the UK Supreme Court, who in 2009 lamented that cases from the Commonwealth were taking too much of the court's time. And it is that pronouncement that gives Robinson even more motivation to push for Jamaica's use of the CCJ.

"After that classic put-down, you would have to wonder why any self-respecting Caribbean country ... would not have immediately set in motion the process to sever ties with the Privy Council and have its own final appellate body," Robinson said.

Arguing that the Privy Council is inaccessible to the majority of Jamaicans, Robinson said the CCJ would be an ideal alternative because the CCJ is an "itinerant" court, which means that the court has the ability to travel to the respective country.

expression of sovereignty

"The Privy Council is not accessible to the vast majority of Jamaicans. The right of appeal to the Privy Council is illusory, since Jamaicans cannot afford the 5,000-mile trek for justice," Robinson said.

He continued: "Consequently, only a few persons utilise that court; in effect, only those who are relatively well off and those accused of murder who receive pro bono help from English lawyers."

In its relatively short life, Robinson noted that the CCJ has "earned a reputation for its excellent judgments, its accessibility, transparency and efficiency in the delivering of justice".

"The main basis for replacing the Privy Council with the CCJ is that it represents the most efficacious way to express our sovereignty and identity. Relinquishing and replacing the ties is also about saying to our ancestors, 'we are ready and able to complete the journey you started centuries ago'," Robinson concluded.

richard.mitchell@gleanerjm.com