Judges demand justice - Government could be reported to the UN for failure to pay salary increases to members of the judiciary
The government could find itself in a battle with some of the island's judges, who are considering action to push for the payment of outstanding salary increases and emoluments they say have been owed for the past four years.
The Sunday Gleaner has confirmed that some courts started late last Monday as the judges delayed sittings for an hour while they met to discuss the appropriate action to take to impress on the Government that they want their money.
The judges are fed up with the manner in which they are being treated, and argued that this was a clear breach of the Judiciary Act.
"Unless the Government immediately rectify the situation, then we will be forced to adopt one of three measures," a senior judge is reported as warning, while charging that the Government is not treating them with respect and fairness.
According to Sunday Gleaner sources, one judge told the meeting: "We are very, very serious about the matter. We just have to defend ourselves."
The sources said three forms of actions were put forward at the meeting last Monday, with the judges to make a decision on the best option when they again meet later this month.
The Sunday Gleaner understands that the judges are contemplating a full withdrawal of their services, filing court action to get an order of mandamus to compel the Government to pay them, or to report the Government to the United Nations (UN).
It appears that the option of going to the UN is the one most favoured at this time, as the judges are aware that if they take their case to the local court they could be seen as administering justice for themselves.
The judges are relying on Article 14 of the United Nations Convention, which states that judges must be protected against conflicts of interest and intimidation. It states further that to safeguard the judges' independence and status, and term of office, adequate remuneration, conditions of service, pension and the age of retirement must be adequately secured by law.
Under the Judiciary Act, the minister of justice has the power to appoint a commission every three years to enquire into the adequacy of salaries and benefits for judges and to make recommendations.
The report is to be submitted to the minister of justice within three months of the appointment of the commission and the minister "shall cause the report by the commission to be tabled in Parliament and the Senate".
One of the complaints of the judges is that the last report by the commission in relation to their salary increases has not been tabled in either House, while another commission is to be appointed in April.
According to the sources, the judges are angry that the last time they were paid an increase in salary was in 2014, and that was for the period 2009 to 2012.
A commission was appointed in 2015 to deal with salary increases for 2014 to 2016 and make recommendations.
That commission was late in completing its report but the judges claim the report was delivered to then Minister of Justice Mark Golding in January of last year. They say the report was sent to the Ministry of Finance just before the 2016 general election.
Last week, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck told our news team that the commission's report was sent to the finance ministry. According to Chuck, he has had discussions with his finance colleague, Audley Shaw, on the matter.
"The minister of finance told me that he was seeing the report for the first time this week and will take it to the Cabinet very soon," said Chuck.