Justice Desiree Bernard honoured as ‘Pioneer Woman Judge’

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By Kurt Campbell

Justice Desiree Bernard. [iNews' Photo]
Justice Desiree Bernard. [iNews’ Photo]

[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Wednesday (February 19) held a special sitting in Guyana to mark the retirement of Justice Desiree Bernard from the Regional Court.

Outstanding and resounding among sentiments expressed were that Madam Bernard was definitely a pioneer woman Judge and a trailblazer for women in the judicial system.

The sentimentalities were well received by Bernard who in turn expressed much appreciation. She described her career as a rewarding one where she contributed to the CCJ, earning the respect of other international territories and the Caribbean people. She assured that even as she leaves the CCJ it remains in safe and competent hands that will continue to be of service to the people of the Region.

President of the CCJ, the Right Honorable Sir Dennis Byron said Bernard’s parting was indeed a sad pleasure and a sweet sorrow. He recognized what he said was her vast contributions to the CCJ.

Sir Byron told the gathering of legal professionals at the Guyana International Conference Center that  Bernard was always a champion for regional integration, economic development and the delivery of justice, adding that her judgments were very instrumental in that regard.

“She is a long time defender of women rights, a trail blazer, breaking barriers for women in Guyana, the Caribbean and the world at large,” he said.

According to the CCJ President, Bernard’s character was one characterized by excellence and integrity.

The Guyanese born 74 – year – old began her career when she acquired her Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1939, where she began practicing privately, spanning the years 1964 – 1980.

She switched gears in 1980 when she began her judicial career and was the first female High Court Judge in the Supreme Court of Guyana. She went on to become the first female Court of Appeal Judge in 1992 and became the First Female Justice in the Caribbean four years later.

She served as the first female Chancellor of the Judiciary in Guyana between the years 2001 – 2005 before becoming the first female Judge on the Caribbean Court of Justice which was established in 2001 to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court.

She also served as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member regional bloc, CARICOM and was awarded the Caricom Triennial Award for Women.

Also speaking at the auspicious occasion was Guyana’s current Chancellor (ag) Justice Carl Singh who said that Bernard’s role as a Judge was striking and identified her conscious efforts throughout her career to be just and fair.

He too observed that her legal career has blazed a path for women in Guyana and the Caribbean who aspire to be Judicial Officers.

He said her achievements and seat at the CCJ is an eloquent testimony to the heights achievable by women who dedicate themselves to the study of law.

Also speaking at the event was Guyana’s Attorney General Anil Nandlall, Caricom Secretary General Irwin La rocque, President of the Guyana Bar Association Ronald Burch – Smith, President of the Guyana Association of women Lawyers, which Bernard helped to form, Simone Morris – Ramlall.

They all underscored her emulative legacy, and her fight for women rights in and out of the judicial system.

The hope is that even as she retires from the CCJ she will continue to serve in other capacities in Guyana and throughout the Caribbean.

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