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Long wait for justice - Senior citizen faces Christmas gloom as court, pension matters drag on

Published:Sunday | December 22, 2019 | 12:44 AMBarbara Gayle - Contributor

Tears streamed down the cheeks of 71-year-old Doril Barclay last week as she expressed feelings of hopelesness and frustration that her desire to have “a peaceful Christmas” was dashed last month when her nine-year-old civil case was adjourned to November next year.

“When I heard that the case was being put off for a whole year, I almost fainted and could not hold back the tears,” the senior citizen said.

Barclay says all she is seeking is to gain passage of way to her house in Lawrence Tavern, St Andrew, and cannot understand why such a simple case should take so long to be tried.

However, Barclay not only has problems with the justice system, but is also facing severe financial hardships because she is unable to get her pension from the Government.

Barclay worked as a postal attendant at the Lawrence Tavern Post Office for more than 15 years, and she says after numerous visits to the Ministry of Finance, she was informed that her file cannot be found.

“I have all my pay slips to prove I was employed to the Government, but right now I feel as if my life is over because I just cannot fight anymore to get justice for my court case or my pension,” she said, as she sat crying with her hands on her head.

Barclay, who lived on her parents’ property in Lawrence Tavern all her life, said the problems started after her parents died and other persons came to live on the property. She said she has a diagram for the property which clearly shows that she has an eight-foot access road to her dwelling house, but in 2010 she noticed that someone had built a concrete structure in the roadway. She reported the matter to the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSMAC) and representatives from the agency visited the premises in June 2010 and issued a stop order, but the order was subsequently disobeyed and so she filed a suit in court.

A court official, in commenting last week on the state of the list, said both judges and court staff are overburdened with work because there are so many civil cases for trial and various applications.

“Right now, cases in the Supreme Court are being set for trial in 2024,” said the court official. More judges and staff could help to solve the problem because litigants are always complaining that cases are taking too long to be tried, the court official added.

Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, in a national broadcast in March this year, made it clear that unnecessary delays in the adjudication of cases would not be accommodated. The chief justice vowed to clear the backlog choking parish courts within six years.

Barclay said she is so sad and frustrated with the situations facing her that she often cries. She is now staying with a relative in St Catherine, but she said all she wants is for the court case to be dealt with quickly so she can return home.

“I was born on the land and I find it so difficult that I have to leave because justice is so slow,” she said.

“When most people are having a Merry Christmas, I will just be lying in bed pondering what is really happening in my life, and I don’t foresee any improvement in the New Year.”

Barclay said before she filed the civil suit in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court, she paid to have the land surveyed. The surveyor gave her a report and also informed her that the building was too much over in the access road and she should seek legal advice. “I sought legal advice and the case was brought before the court from 2010, but adjournments after adjournments have now brought the next date to November 2020 and I am so disappointed,” says Barclay. She explained that some of the adjournments took place because judges were not available to try the case. “When I went to court last month, the lawyer representing the other party was not in attendance and the court was told that the lawyer was no longer appearing in the case,” Barclay disclosed.

“I have been unemployed for quite some time now and I have spent a lot of money to get the situation remedied, but to me this case is definitely a waste of my time and money,” says the senior citizen.

On the pension issue, Barclay disclosed that so far all she got from the Accountant General’s Office was a cheque in December 2012 for $1,514.22. The amount, she said, represented her contribution to the Pension Civil Service Family Benefit Scheme.

Barclay, who worked as a postal attendant from 1980 to 1996, said she was dismissed from her job in March 1996 because of alleged job abandonment.

“But I did not abandon my job. I went on leave in December 1995, and while vacationing overseas, I fell on ice and injured myself,” she explained. She was treated for the injury and said she sent a medical certificate to the Central Sorting Office, which is the head office. “When I returned to my job in 1996, I was told that I was dismissed because a response was sent to my address overseas and there was no reply.” Barclay said she never received that letter. She said she contacted a lawyer who advised her to ask for deferred pension, and she did.

However, since age 60, Barclay says she has been visiting the Ministry of Finance to have her pension approved and was told on numerous occasions that it was being worked on. She said she lost hope in 2017 when she went to check on her pension and was informed that her file could not be found.

“Since then, I have heard nothing further and so I just gave up because I just cannot be bothered,” she said.