by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Sir Dennis Byron believes no disadvantages for Grenada in relinquishing Privy Council
- Costs US$500 to file a matter at the CCJ, with provisions for fee exemptions
- Writ has been issued by the Governor-General on Tuesday, 18 September
Responding to questions at Tuesday’s interactive session with faculty and students of the T A Marryshow Community College (TAMCC), former President of the CCJ, Sir Dennis Byron, said he believes there are no disadvantages for Grenada in relinquishing London’s Privy Council in favour of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the final appellate court.
This engagement is part of promotional activities ahead of the referendum scheduled for 6 November 6, aimed at ensuring the voting population has a better understanding about the inner working of the court.
“I know that reasonable people are supposed to say the pros and cons, and I think that I am a reasonable person, but I don’t see any disadvantages in coming to CCJ at this time. In fact, as I mentioned to you I dreamt about a court like this long before it existed, so when I was selected to serve on this court, it was like a culmination of a lifelong dream.”
The former CCJ President says this is a step in the right direction for Grenada to accede to the Appellate Jurisdiction of the CCJ, so that ordinary citizens can easily access justice. He also addressed the belief that the fees to access the CCJ, are exorbitant. “To file a matter to the court is much smaller than going to the Privy Council. From beginning to end it is about US$500, but we have provisions in our rules that people who cannot afford to pay the fees are granted exemptions from the fees, and we have already made 46 orders allowing people to file cases without having to pay fees.”
To further assist people who are unable to afford the cost to access the court, Sir Dennis says there are measures in place to have lawyers represent a litigant on a pro bono basis. “We have had cases where we able to encourage lawyers to provide pro bono assistance to people who could not afford to pay their fees and many of the lawyers who have done that have expressed pride that they were able to appear before the highest court and that they were able to give service to the people.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell took the opportunity to remind young people of the nonpartisan nature of this move towards the CCJ and encouraged them to vote wisely come referendum day as this decision will ultimately affect their future.
“This is not a political issue, and it is unfortunate when issues of national importance are before us sometimes political interest come to play. This is beyond and above party-political interest. It is not an NNP or an NDC issue. It is your future in this country and that’s why I believe is so necessary for you to be actively involved and how it affects your future,” he said.
The Caribbean Court of Justice and other justice-related matters (Amendment) Bill already went through both stages of Parliament but only received unanimous approval in the lower House of Parliament. Last Friday, labour representative in the Upper House, Andre Lewis abstained from supporting the CCJ bill. However, the bill was able to get the majority vote needed for approval.
The writ has been issued by the Her Excellency the Governor-General, Dame Cécile La Grenade on Tuesday, 18 September. Persons wishing to register to vote will have 9 days in which to do so. The Supervisor of Elections will then publish the writ and the amendment bill in the Gazette and in the newspapers within 14 days of the issuance of the writ.