CCJ Reports Increased Workload

PORT OF SPAIN (CMC) | The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is reporting a 20 per cent increase in the number of matters filed before it than the previous year.

According to the newly released Court’s annual report for the 2016-7 judicial year, cases were filed from Dominica, Barbados, Belize and Guyana, the four countries that are signatories to the CCJ’s Appellate jurisdiction. The CCJ, established in 2001 to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court, has an Original and Appellate Jurisdiction but also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC) that governs the 15-member regional integration movement, CARICOM. While most of the CARICOM countries are signatories to the Original jurisdiction, only Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana have signed on to the Appellate jurisdiction.

According to the annual report, there were 25 cases filed this year as compared to the 20 last year, with a breakdown by country showing one case was filed by Dominica, 10 by Barbados, and seven each from Belize and Guyana. “It should be noted that while five cases were commenced as Notices of Appeal in the judicial year 2016 – 2017, three additional Notices of Appeal were filed arising from successful applications for Special Leave to Appeal bringing the total to eight,” the report noted. It said that an analysis of the 2016 to 2017 judicial year, indicates that 42 per cent of cases were disposed within three month of filing while 79 per cent of cases were disposed within one year.

“During the period under review, the clearance rate for matters filed reflect a rate of 76 per cent for disposed matters against new matters. In the last three months, nine matters were filed while the Court disposed of eight matters. “Notably, all matters filed prior to 1 June 2017 were heard before 31 July 2017 and of these, 15 were disposed and judgments were delivered in 10 matters,” the CCJ annual report stated, noting that as at 31 July 2017, there were 13 pending matters and of this number, 77 per cent were before the court for a period of less than six months, while only one pending matter was before the Court for over a year.The average age of pending caseload was 124 days.

In the Original Jurisdiction, the CCJ heard only one matter that was filed by attorney and show promoter Cabral Douglas against the Dominica government. “This case was filed on 24 August 2016 and judgment was delivered six months later on 20 February 2017,” the CCJ noted.

Regarding applications for “Special Leave to Appeal” the CCJ said that in keeping with the overriding objective to ensure that the Court is “accessible, fair and efficient”, it has embraced active case management techniques to reduce the number of hearing dates between the initial filing and disposition of a case. “This has resulted in the hearing of a number of Special Leave Applications being treated as the substantive hearing so that one hearing is held instead of two that would normally be held. Of the 20 Applications for Special Leave to Appeal filed in the year under review, eight were treated as the substantive Hearings of Appeal.”

CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron, said the annual report, which is available on the Court’s website, “is an important instrument for ensuring transparency and accountability”. He said the CCJ, has, through its Original and Appellate jurisdictions, cemented several important principles of law, and, particularly during the past year, much of this judicial work has been supported by the application and refinement of comprehensive case management principles.

“The 2017 report is now available, at your convenience, on the Court’s website. It is one of the initiatives that we are doing to fulfil two mandates: to ensure that we are accessible to our stakeholder groups and, secondly, to increase the efficiency of our operations by reducing the amount of paper that is used to print the reports. Both of these initiatives respond to key tenets in CCJ’s strategic objectives.”