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Judge warns against ‘destructive criticism’ on court rulings

By PAUL HENRY Coordinator, Crime/Court Desk henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, April 27, 2014    

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A high court judge has cautioned against 'destructive criticism' of decisions made by judges warning that it was not not good for the administration of justice.

The word of caution came from Justice Lloyd Hibbert during his remarks at the opening of the Easter Term of the Home Circuit Court in Kingston on Wednesday.

Hibbert started out by saying that judges were not beyond being criticised.

"But when criticism is being made it must be constructive criticism," he said.

He said that destructive criticism isn't good for the system and noted that criticism must be based upon facts and not conjecture.

Hibbert didn't pinpoint anyone or particular situation in his remarks, but Queen's Counsel Paula Llewellyn, the director of public prosecutions, made the headlines last month, and was roundly criticised by some of her peers in the legal profession, after expressing displeasure with Senior Resident Magistrate Judith Pusey's decision to throw out the criminal case against former minister of state for mining and energy, Kern Spencer and his co-accused Coleen Wright.

Some High Court judges, the Jamaica Observer had been told, had privately expressed disappointment in Llewellyn's public opposition to Pusey's decision.

After five years of stop and go trial in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court, in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, Pusey upheld no-case submissions made by lawyers for the accused and threw out the case against them.

Llewellyn, who had during the trial been engaged in legal wrangling with Pusey that held up the matter, expressed her disappointment with the ruling. At the same time, she said had the prosecution the right of appeal, she would have appealed the decision.

Llewellyn agreed in a radio interview that "justice was not served" in the Cuban light bulb case and in a television programme, Llewellyn expressed that Pusey had erred in law, and made reference to two cases in which guilty verdicts by Pusey were overturned by the Court of Appeal.

But Llewellyn gained backing from some quarters in the public, most of whom felt that Pusey made the wrong decision.

Spencer and Wright were put on trial over alleged wrongdoing in the Cuban light bulb project.

On Wednesday, attorney-at-law Donovan Williams, the new president of the Jamaican Bar Association, agreed with Hibbert's position on criticism of judges, adding that "comments must be respectful".

He also cautioned attorneys against "pandering to the ever expanding media" with their comments.

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