Given the increasing number of cases that are being brought before the courts on the island, President of the Bar Association Andie George is urging government to take a technological approach or hire stenographers in order to improve the legal system.
George told St. Lucia News Online (SNO) in a recent interview that “the time has come for judges to stop writing longhand”. He said this is one of the reasons for the backlog of cases.
“I think it is necessary that we move away from this archaic system of recording proceedings. We need technology to improve the system so that things could move faster,” he told SNO.
George insists that judges, attorneys and both parties involved in a legal matter should be able to get a transcript of the day’s proceedings at the end of the day. However at present, there is no system that allows this to happen and persons are led to wait days or weeks before they are handed a copy of the actual legal proceeding.
Although there are tape recordings of all proceedings, the attorney believes that the system is not good enough. “Because you have to have someone going through these tapes and trying to transcribe what was said and quite a few of the instances what is being said is lost because the transcriber may not be able to follow what was said on the tape,” he opined.
“The court can acquire through government’s assistance, equipment to allow that to happen and if it were a situation that there is a need for a partnership with the Bar Association, the bar would certainly assist in contributing to attaining that equipment,” George added.
George suggested that in the absence of technology, government should also look at hiring stenographers. “By the end of the day, you can get the proceedings transcribed. We had three trained stenographers and we allowed them to go.”
The training took place three years ago and was funded by government.
However, he recalled that when the stenographers returned home, no equipment was available for them to work with. They were all forced to work in various capacities in the civil service and served a bonding period before leaving. According to him, one of the three individuals is now a practicing lawyer, while the other two have moved to greener pastures.
George has also called for the appointment of a new criminal judge, which he said could also help in improving the legal system. The association head has said that one criminal judge is not enough.
He claims that the current criminal judge is under constant pressure. This, he believes, is also causing the constant backlog of cases, which needs serious attention.