Wed | Jan 27, 2021

Justice Vivene Harris elevated to Court of Appeal, five parish court jurists moving up

Published:Wednesday | January 6, 2021 | 3:30 PM
The Court of Appeal building at King Street in downtown Kingston - File photo.

Justice Vivene Harris, who presided over the successful prosecution of a police death squad case, is to be appointed the 13th judge on the Court of Appeal, filling the last vacant seat on the nation’s second-highest court.  

Harris’elevation from the Supreme Court will take effect on January 11.

Governor General Sir Patrick Allen is expected to swear in Harris, as well as eight other judicial officers to the Supreme Court, at a ceremony at King’s House in St Andrew.   

Some of Harris’ recent high-profile cases included the 2019 trial of five men, four of whom were convicted for the beheading of a woman and her daughter in Lauriston, St Catherine, in 2011.  

READ: Life sentences for men convicted of beheading St Catherine mother and daughter 

She also presided over the 2018 trial of police constable Collin 'Chucky' Brown in one of the so-called police death squad cases, in which it was purported that cops murdered alleged criminals instead of following due process.   

Following Brown’s conviction and life sentence, Harris said revelations in the trial brought great disrepute to the police force, and that Brown’s killing of three men was "extreme moral turpitude".

READ: Guilty on all counts... Constable 'Chucky' Brown convicted on murder, other charges

The Court of Appeal will soon, however, be seeking another jurist as Justice Hilary Phillips is expected to retire this year.   

Meanwhile, Parish Court Judge Carole Barnaby is to be promoted to the Supreme Court, while four of her colleagues will take on acting positions on the court.   

Icolin Reid, Vaugn Smith, Tara Carr and Annmarie Lawrence-Grainger – all senior parish judges – along with Pamela Mason, a master-in-chambers, are to act as Supreme Court justices.   

Attorney-at-Law Kamar Anderson and Parish Court Judge Stephanie Orr are to be appointed master-in-chambers.   

Masters are judicial officers ranking just below judges and mainly consider civil-related matters.   

Those appointments take effect tomorrow.   

The Appeal Court is headed by its president, Justice Patrick Brooks, who took over in December 2020 following the retirement of Justice Dennis Morrison.  

The 2018 European Union-funded renovation and expansion of the Court of Appeal building in downtown Kingston made way for an increase in the number of the judges beyond the seven that made up the court since the 1960s.   

Speaking at Brooks’ swearing-in in December, Chief Justice Bryan Sykes said the changes have led to “significant” improvement in the court’s performance.    

Thought not releasing any figures, Sykes said that between March and September of 2020, the “output of the court exceeded the entire year of 2019”.

In 2019, the Appeal Court disposed of 193 appeals, 53 more than in the previous year.

In 111 cases, judgments or written reasons for rulings were outstanding.

The figure for 2018 was 99.  

More than 1,817 appeals were pending at the end of 2019, but transcripts from lower courts were outstanding for 839 of those cases.   

“We will also need to step up our written judgment output if we are to make a significant impact on the backlog of reserved judgments in 2020,” Morrison wrote in the 2019 report. 

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