‘Unprecedented and interesting’
PRESIDENT of the Jamaica Bar Association (JAMBAR), Kevin Powell, says that the intervention of the president of the United Kingdom’s Privy Council (UKPC), Lord Robert Reed, into the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) issue was both unprecedented and interesting.
Speaking at the Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) Human Rights Day reception at the Spanish Court Hotel in Kingston on Sunday, Powell criticised Lord Reed’s argument, that the cost to travel to London is not a barrier to justice, since the court engages the use of technology for its hearings.
He noted that visas are not granted as a right, and application for them attract a cost. He said that there was also a need to retain a solicitor in London to prepare and file papers for the UKPC, which also attracts a cost, usually in terms of thousands of pounds. However, he admitted that the cost to travel to London would not be a barrier to justice, since the court engages in technology for its hearings,
Powell said that this intervention by the head of the UKPC was not only unprecedented and interesting, but that it also generated significant discussion. However, he acknowledged that while the use of technology is “certainly helpful”, the CCJ offers a similar feature for its appeals.
“It does not address the time zone challenges which will arise in virtual hearings involving the Privy Council,” Powell said.
“Lord Reed’s assurances also do not fully bridge the geographical and financial gaps that often impede access to our country’s present apex court. Nor do they address the inherent absence of sensitivity and even understanding of our people and customs,” he stated.
He said that in contrast to the CCJ, which actively engages in community outreach and legal aid and legal education initiatives, and by demystifying the legal processes and making information readily available, it empowers citizens to understand their rights and navigate the justice system more effectively.
“It does so in a manner that the Privy Council, owing to its distance, cultural nuances and cost barriers, could not. This level of increased awareness ensures that justice is not an abstract concept, but a tangible right for everyone,” argued Powell, who replaced his colleague and former JAMBAR President John Bassie, who resigned the post two months ago following an adverse ruling against him by the disciplinary panel of the JAMBAR.
He noted that, in contrast with the UKPC, the CCJ actively engages in community outreach and legal aid and legal education initiatives. He also noted that “by demystifying the legal processes and making information readily available, the CCJ empowers citizens to understand their rights and navigate the justice system more effectively”.
“It does so in a manner that the Privy Council, owing to its distance, cultural nuances and cost barriers, could not. This level of increased awareness ensures that justice is not an abstract concept, but a tangible right for everyone,” he added.
Powell’s speech, titled “Justice for all through the Caribbean Court of Justice”, was welcomed by the audience, which included current and past members of Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) which was celebrating its 25th anniversary at the function.
Among the other speakers were: Ambassador Marianne Van Steen, who heads the Delegation of the European Union; John Clarke, chairman of the JFJ board; Dr Carolyn Gomes, human rights activist and a former executive director; Dr Richard Amenyah, country director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); Suzan Goffe, a founding member of JFJ; and Mickel Jackson, executive director, who took the opportunity to announce a number of initiatives which are being pursued by JFJ for its 25th anniversary.
The events scheduled include a “Run for Rights”, as well as a “Justice Fair” and efforts for the establishment of the CCJ as well as a National Human Rights institution, which she suggested would be able to support State institutions, including the Integrity Commission, and champions the rights of women subjected to rapes and the right to abortion through the constitutional reform process.
She said that JFJ will be having a $25-million fund-raising campaign in recognition of its 25th anniversary next year to support issues such as legal support and public advocacy, gender-based violence and discrimination.