The debate was opened by Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding, who reiterated all the major talking points in favour of the CCJ replacing the Privy Council as Jamaica’s final appellate court, such as lower cost, access for a broader cross-section of people, and exercise of national sovereignty.
Opposition Senator Alexander Williams conceded that all these issues are important. However, he declared that true sovereignty and security would be best ensured with a Jamaican final court that was deeply entrenched in the Jamaican Constitution.
Senator Golding, in anticipation of the Opposition’s arguments, pointed out that a Jamaican final court might be a possibility one day, but not for the foreseeable future, given the significant financial undertaking this would entail, calling it, a "pipe dream."
He said Jamaica, instead of the US$26 million that it contributed to the establishment of the CCJ, would have to come up with the full US$100 million to establish a new court on its own.
Government Senator K.D. Knight, a former Minister of National Security and Justice, in support of Justice Minister Golding, made reference to constitutional scholar Dr. Lloyd Barnett, who lauded the judgments of the CCJ.
"Dr. Barnett said, 'in my view, they are thorough and analytically sound, socially relevant without being insular, learned without being pedantic, progressive while being appreciative of precedent, culturally sensitive whilst appreciative of Commonwealth and international learning...' If that is not a full endorsement of the quality of justice dispensed, I know not what else could be. And I ask you, is there an opposite view in this Chamber? Is there anyone who says Dr. Barnett's analysis is wrong? If there is none, forever hold your piece!"
Senator Golding, in opening the debate, said, “As I open the debate on the three Bills that are before us, I wish to stress that this is all about the rights of the Jamaican people. The rights of our people are protected by access to justice, which means access to our courts. For centuries, the vast majority of our people have been denied the right to appeal their cases to Jamaica’s final court, because our final court is a colonial institution which sits in London.
That institution, known as the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, for the most part only hears appeals from two categories of Jamaicans – firstly, there are convicted murderers who are facing the death penalty. The death penalty having been abolished in the UK 50 years ago, but remains on our law books. There are lawyers in London who are willing to argue Jamaican death penalty appeals for free. The other category is the wealthy individual or corporation in Jamaica, that can afford the enormous costs, amounting to many tens of millions of dollars, that are required to take an appeal to the Privy Council.
But for the vast majority of Jamaicans, if they lose their appeal in the Jamaican Court of Appeal, that is the end of their recourse to the law for protection of their rights, even though there may be may be a right to a further appeal to the final court in London. It is this denial of access to justice for the Jamaican people that is the most pressing imperative that compels the passing of these three Bills.
Attached is the entire presentation of Minister Golding in support of the CCJ Bills
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