CJ: Let Judiciary manage its money
By Jada Loutoo Tuesday, September 17 2013
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One year later: President Anthony Carmona and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissesssar at the ceremonial address by the Chief Justice, Hall of Justice, ...
CHIEF Justice Ivor Archie has advocated the need for greater autonomy for the Judiciary to manage its own finances, as he said the cumbersome and lengthy procedures associated with the allocation of funds in the national Budget “sometimes offend against the principle of judicial independence.”
The Chief Justice made the call as he delivered the address at the ceremonial opening of the 2013/2014 law term before a large audience of the legal fraternity, which included Judges of the Supreme Court of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean Court of Justice, President Anthony Carmona, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan at the Convocation Hall of the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.
In a wide-ranging address in which he spoke of the goals and some of the achievements of the Judiciary, Archie said adequate resources and the proper control and autonomy for managing them were critical to the Judiciary.
“I am of the firm view, that one of the biggest hindrances to Public Sector efficiency and productivity is the way that monies voted by Parliament and for which expenditure is therefore legally authorised are allocated and released. Procedures are lengthy and cumbersome and in the case of the Judiciary sometimes offend against the principle of judicial independence,” he said.
He used an example of having to seek Cabinet approval for travel for judges, including himself, to judicial conferences overseas.
“Why is it necessary? By all means make us accountable, but we must be free to manage,” he stressed, as he added that as of June 2013, only 40 percent of the Judiciary’s Capital Expenditure budget allocation was released to it.
He called for dialogue on the issue with the executive to achieve “greater efficiency and to the financial and administrative independence.”
In an immediate response, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar told reporters, greater autonomy for the Judiciary to handle its own finances was one which she agreed with as it is done in democracies around the world.
She said, she in principle, had supported giving the Judiciary greater financial independence many years ago and this was something her Government was prepared to consider.
The monetary allocation will still come from the Government, she added, but said structures and processes as it relates to allocation and the release of funds will be changed to give the Judiciary independence of its finances.
As he spoke of the topical issue of the Criminal Justice System, Archie said there was no dispute that the “system was in crisis.”
“Not the Judiciary, not the DPP, not the Police — the whole system,” he said. To illustrate his point, Archie pointed to the 42 percent increase in the disposition of indictments from 64 to 91 in the last term. According to him, indictments filed increased from 116 to 339. Providing further figures, Archie noted there were 575 persons in custody awaiting trial in respect of 468 murders.
“With the length of the average murder trial running into several weeks, we could have ten judges assigned to try nothing, but murder cases for the next five years and we still will not have cleared the backlog, assuming that all the matters go to trial,” he said. Archie said up to now, a comprehensive reform of the criminal justice system has yet to be achieved. “No civilised society should tolerate the lengthy incarceration of persons whose guilt has not yet been determined. It is inhumane. Additionally, public confidence in the system of justice is eroded and the all-important timeous connection between commission of offenses and punitive consequences, which is a major deterrent factor, is lost,” he said. According to Archie, the Judiciary is in the process of reshaping its identity and has taken steps towards building a court system that would serve as a pillar of strength and stability for democracy while becoming a forerunner to a modern and effective justice administration system.
Archie also spoke of addressing issues of delays and reducing the cost of operations by redesigning court processes, the development of case and case-flow management policies and the use of appropriate information and communication technologies. “The success of the process improvement initiative will rely, in part, on how well the court’s stakeholders are integrated into our processes, and how well their communication protocols work to support our processes,” he said, citing the example of tracing of accused persons so that bail applications can be properly dealt with in a timely fashion.
As he spoke of some achievements, Archie noted the Judiciary has added to its publications to assist judges a handbook on the Award of Damages for False Imprisonment and Malicious Prosecution in TT. He also provided court performance statistics over the past year, adding that the demand on the courts had increased.
A meeting of all judges involved in criminal trials will be held soon to plan and execute training in criminal case management within the boundaries of the existing law and to formulate recommendations for reform, the Chief Justice said.