PJ Patterson:Too late to complain about CCJ

(Trinidad Express) It is too late now to raise reservations about the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as a final appellate court, former Jamaica prime minister Percival Noel James Patterson has said.

Patterson said concerns should have been raised before parties signed on to the treaty establishing the CCJ.

Patterson, the Caribbean Community’s (Caricom’s) special representative on Haiti, made the statement as he delivered the feature address at the Caribbean Academy for Law and Court Administration’s (CALCA) second international law seminar held at the Convocation Hall of the Hall of Justice, Port of Spain on Thursday night.

“We need to remind ourselves that the agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice is a legal treaty which binds all the signatory parties. It is a treaty governed by the Vienna Convention which permits any reservation by one of the contracting parties to be notified at the time of entry and not thereafter,” Patterson said.

“It is an invitation for those who know any reason why the marriage should not be consummated to step forward and speak then or thereafter to hold their peace.”

Patterson said this rule was included to avoid any “irreparable harm”.

“There is a cogent reason why this rule has been prescribed that the reservation must be entered when a state consents to be bound by a treaty. Were it otherwise and permitted at a later stage, irreparable harm would be done to the fundamental principle and so we need to remind ourselves that the time for entering any reservations on the CCJ has passed long, long ago. Nuff said,” he said.

On April 25, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar told the Parliament that legislation will be brought to remove the British Privy Council as this country’s final appellate court and replaced with the CCJ with respect to criminal matters.

Civil matters will still go before the Privy Council, Persad-Bissessar said.

Patterson said this attempt to “bifurcate” the CCJ would face “grave difficulty”.

In July, this country failed in its attempt to have Caricom amend the law governing the CCJ to allow for its partial accession for criminal matters.

The issue was raised at the 33rd Caricom Heads of Government Meeting in St Lucia in July.

“It is very clear that such a step (partial accession) could not be taken without an amendment to the existing treaty. That is before the (Caricom) heads for their consideration and I do not think it is necessary or appropriate for me to make any comments on what they will do but…it is going to mean an amendment of the treaty and I see grave difficulty in securing the concurrence of all member states to ensure that,” Patterson said as he addressed members of the media following the CALCA event.

“The Caribbean Court of Justice is vested with two jurisdictions, but it is not two separate courts, it is one court single and indivisible.”

Patterson said this country’s attempt to separate the CCJ between criminal and civil jurisdictions would adversely affect the timeliness of judgments.

“There is another real concern that I have and I think anybody who has considered it from the legal standpoint will realise that if you try to bifurcate, so to speak, the jurisdiction of the court you would end up in a situation where there is an appeal on a criminal matter before the CCJ and then the disappointed litigant will simply file a constitutional motion saying he or she has been deprived of some constitutional rights that would mean that it would have to go before the Privy Council, so you would also end up with long delays before any final decisions have been arrived at.”

Patterson steered clear from commenting on the Section 34 fiasco facing this country.

Asked for a comment on the controversy, Patterson said: “I am not aware that there has been much attention given to it in the rest of the region, I have only read snippets of the reports and I am really not in the position to pass any comment.”

Chief Justice Ivor Archie, president of the CCJ Sir Dennis Byron and former chief justice and former CCJ president Michael de la Bastide were present on Thursday night.

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