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(SNO) — Local attorney Natalie Dabreo is calling on the government to put its judicial house in order first before even thinking of switching to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the island’s final appellate court.
Presently, the London-based Privy Council is Saint Lucia’s final appeals court but there have been calls to move over to the CCJ, based in Trinidad. Some, such as CCJ President Justice Adrian Saunders, have said that such move will be a sign of full independence from Great Britain.
But Dabreo does not believes that a move from the Privy Council will define the island’s independence.
“We are endearing to remove ourselves from the Privy Council to fully claim our independence,” she told Caribbean Hot7 TV. “How do we fully claim our independence when we do not produce our own food? When we depend almost entirely on foreign support for us to pursue our existence? When we are sinking ourselves further and further into debt? And we are endearing to remove ourselves from the Privy Council as a manner in which we define our independence? I don’t think so.”
She is of the opinion that in order to define independence, “we need to strengthen ourselves as a people first”.
She painted a gloomy picture of Saint Lucia’s judiciary system, saying it is lacking in many ways.
“We have a court in a shopping mall in town, walk through, with all tourists and shops and all kinds of commerce going on …” she stated. “If there is any violent incident in the court, all the shoppers and employees are at risk. Then we have the criminal court on the highway in Vigie, in a building that is not fit for a court.”
She also said the legislative arm of the government has failed on many levels.
“We have people in the legislator, not necessarily this time, but perhaps this time as well, who really frankly I don’t think understand the laws that they pass, and I am not sure they read the legislation before they pass it,” she stated.
Dabreo beleives that before moving to the CCJ the court system must be improved in Saint Lucia.
“My position is that before we consider moving to the Caribbean Court of Justice, we need to improve our magisterial court system, even the structures where magistrate courts are held, they are lacking,” she stated. “The high court does not have a building, we are operating in a situation where we are not calling trials at the criminal court and all the judges are not sitting, we are moving all over the place. Sometimes we have matters and our clients are not with us, we have to see our clients on a screen and we cannot speak to our clients while we stand before the courts.”
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