Justice Saunders calls for all regional nations to accept CCJ as final court

Justice Adrian Saunders

By: Rupa Seenaraine

President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Justice Adrian Saunders on Friday lobbied for the use of Caribbean jurisprudence throughout the region, starting with the acceptance of the regional court as the final pedestal for appeal cases.

He made the appeal during a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) forum on a needs assessment of the judicial system across nine countries, including Guyana.

The Caribbean has been influenced by colonial powers, which has shaped and governed various systems throughout its tenancy and is still alive in the present-day setting.

But according to Justice Saunders, it is time for the Caribbean to move away from such structures and develop its own.

Justice Saunders indicated that the first step in accepting regional jurisprudence starts with countries acknowledging the CCJ as their final appeal court, rather than moving to the Queen’s Privy Council in the United Kingdom.

As it stands, only four countries have taken this route with others yet to follow. Those countries are Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica.

“From the vantage point of a Judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice, the critical question is for me, what can the donor community do to advance Caribbean jurisprudence. Of course, it goes without saying, a momentous step in promoting Caribbean jurisprudence would be taken if all the States in the region followed the lead of Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica in embracing the CCJ as their final court of appeal,” the CCJ President said.

“Events occurring over the last two and a half months have brought a sharper relief, the incongruity of most of the region’s final appeal being heard in London by their lordships of Her Majesty’s Privy Council. Notwithstanding, there are other important ways of promoting Caribbean jurisprudence and engage the attention of the donor community,” he added.

While acknowledging the semi-centennial anniversary of offering law studies in the Caribbean, it was pointed out that now is the time to reflect on the progress throughout these years in moulding a better curriculum for students.

“This year marks exactly 50 years since the English-speaking Caribbean began the teaching of law in the region. The opening of the doors of the University of the West Indies in 1970 was a fundamental milestone in the development of a Caribbean jurisprudence. After 50 years of teaching law, it is about time to reflect and to take stock,” he said.

Saunders pointed out that in the early years, textbooks used to study law in the Caribbean were crafted specifically for students in the United Kingdom and the case laws used were those decided in the UK.

“After 50 years of producing our own lawyers, judges, legal academics and our own final appellate court, how much has changed with respect to the teaching of the law?”

As such, a proposal was made to Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hilary Beckles, to examine the extent of English influence on the legal education system. This could be done through a partnership with the CCJ with room to modify the teaching materials.