Tue | Oct 23, 2018

Why cling to Privy Council?

Published:Tuesday | December 16, 2014 | 12:00 AM


I write in response to the column ('CCJ can still be manipulated') written by Edward Seaga on Sunday, December 14, 2014. The column itself, while highly informative, seems to have missed quite a bit of information that would give greater context to the CCJ-Privy Council debate.

Given Mr Seaga's continuing and multiple roles in various organisations and institutions, it shouldn't be surprising that in writing his column, he may have inadvertently left these out.

The most important fact is that in September 2009, Lord Nicholas Phillips (who is a senior law lord of the Privy Council and also the first president of the UK's new Supreme Court) made comments to the effect that he would be "searching for ways to curb the 'disproportionate' time he and his fellow senior justices spent hearing legal appeals from independent Commonwealth countries to the Privy Council' and "suggested that in 'an ideal world', Commonwealth countries would stop using the Privy Council".

These comments came mere months after the last time the Privy Council held a session in the Bahamas (in March 2009; two other sessions were held in 2006 and 2007).


The second fact, which is related to the first, is that since Lord Phillips' comments, the Privy Council has not travelled outside of the United Kingdom, and some of the suggested ways for curbing the 'disproportionate' time spent on appeal from outside the UK include not having as many senior judges listening to such cases.

Perhaps when the last government that Mr Seaga referred to received the letter (likely before September 2009), noting that the Privy Council would sit in Jamaica for the minimal cost of board and lodging and basically become an itinerant court, the government also took note of the remarks by Lord Phillips? Could that be the reason why Bruce Golding was less vocal in his support of retaining the Privy Council (even if he was not in full favour of the CCJ to replace it)?

Even if we do not adopt the CCJ, it seems a bit sad that we are clinging to an institution that sees us as a burden rather than a partner.