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Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Her Ladyship the Honourable Dame Janice M. Pereira, DBE has urged the legal profession to uphold the integrity of the Judiciary.
The Chief Justice’s remarks came during the special sitting of the Supreme Court to officially open the 2015-2016 Law Year on Thursday, September 17.
The Chief Justice delivered her address in Grenada, which was simulcast in the Virgin Islands as well as eight other member states and territories of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
During the hour-long address, Honourable Pereira stressed the need for a holistic approach to safeguard the individual and institutional independence of the Judiciary. She stated that the existence of an independent, effective and competent legal profession is a key element in safeguarding and promoting the independence of the Judiciary.
The Chief Justice stated, “This is significant because the role played by the legal profession is critical to the proper functioning of the justice system. Whether the wheels of justice move along a smooth and effective pace or they grind as if along a gravel path, depends to a considerable extent on how well the legal practitioner performs his or her role in the conduct and pursuit of the causes before the court.”
Dame Periera said that the service of the legal profession to society is very critical and important but over the years it has come under much scrutiny and criticism.
“Disbarment, suspensions, and other sanctions against members of the legal profession are becoming all too common place. This begs the question, what happened along the way,” she said, adding, “It is the solemn obligation of every member of the profession, individually and collectively, to safeguard the integrity of the profession.”
Dame Pereira stated that the role of the Bar Association is pivotal in advancing the course of judgement and that it is necessary to have a fully functional bar association to which every legal practitioner is a part. “The time is come when we must move away from the culture where only an interested few, champion the cause for all. The Bar must never underestimate the power it holds as a collective body,” she stated.
Dame Pereira applauded attorneys who have demonstrated exemplary performance and conducted themselves in a respectful manner while contributing immensely to the jurisdiction of the region.
The Chief Justice provided comprehensive updates on all projects and initiatives over the past year including the Family, Commercial, Civil and Criminal Divisions of the Court. Updates on access to justice, the use of technology, the jury process and training were also provided.
The Commercial Court in the Virgin Islands was singled out as having a model court in many effects and a replica is set to be created in St. Lucia. The Government’s purchase of Digital Court Recording Systems for use by the Magistracy was highlighted and the E-Filing Pilot Project initiative in the Virgin Islands received special mention.
The special sitting in the Virgin Islands was presided over by Her Ladyship the Honourable Madam Justice Vicki Ann Ellis. Government officials in attendance were His Excellency the Governor, Mr. John S. Duncan, OBE; Premier of the Virgin Islands, Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE and Mrs. Lorna Smith, OBE; Minister for Health and Social Development Honourable, Ronnie W. Skelton; and member of the House of Assembly Dr. the Honourable Hubert O’Neal. Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Deputy Governor, Mr. David Archer was also present.
Remarks were also delivered at the special sitting by Attorney General, Honourable Baba Aziz; Member of the Inner Bar, Mr. Paul Dennis, QC; Senior Magistrate, Ms. Tamia Richards and President of the BVI Bar Association, Ms. Jacqueline Daley. A special sitting of the Supreme Court is the signature event to officially open the new law year