Rejecting Privy Council should be the people's choice, says British DPP

Published: Wednesday | September 30, 2009

British Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer chats with Jamaica's DPP, Paula Llewellyn, during a reception held in his honour at the British High Commission in New Kingston on Monday evening. - Colin Hamilton/Freelance Photographer

THE DECISION to retain or reject the United Kingdom (UK) Privy Council as Jamaica's final court of appeal rests with the people, according to the UK's director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer.

"This is entirely a matter for the people of Jamaica. If the people of Jamaica wish to retain the Privy Council, then I am sure the court will provide them with the excellent service it has done up to now," Starmer told The Gleaner this week during a visit to the island.

Controversial issue

He is the latest British legal luminary to comment on the controversial issue of whether Jamaica should replace the UK body, which predated Inde-pendence, with a local court. The issue was flung back into the spotlight by recent remarks from Lord Phillips, the incoming president of the newly formed UK Supreme Court.

Phillips told the British media that the caseload of appeals from the Commonwealth, particularly the Caribbean, was burdensome on the British justice system, and urged the countries of the region to set up their own final appellate court.


His comments touched a raw nerve in the Opposition People's National Party, which had advocated the replacement of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice when it had formed the government. Last week, Opposition Spokesman on Justice, Senator A.J. Nicholson, said it was shameful that Jamaica had found itself at the butt of such criticisms coming out of the UK.

There has been a stalemate between the Government and the Opposition about the consti-tutional requirement to hold a referendum to withdraw from the Privy Council.

According to Starmer, the UK is prepared to accept the outcome of such a referendum.

"If, on the other hand, the people of Jamaica feel some other option is now appropriate, then that's a decision that I would certainly respect, and Lord Phillips as well," Starmer said.

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