SKN Bar Association Condemns Attacks On Court Judges by LK Hewlett
The St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association decries a smear campaign launched against the OECS Court of Appeal following recent rulings in a political case. Last week the Appellate Court convened to hear the Opposition’s appeal of a discharged injunction in the lingering boundary change saga. The CoA imposed an interim injunction against election officials barring them from acting on a January 16 boundary change proclamation until the matter could be properly heard. Candidates for the ruling St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party were none too pleased with the ruling. At a public meeting several maintained that the elections set for February 16 will proceed on the new boundaries despite the court order and pending hearings to decide the matter. A post on the Facebook page of a government minister accused the Court of Appeal and Her Ladyship Chief Justice Janice Pereira of colluding with the Opposition. He also alleged bias due to the Caribbean Court of Justice President Sir Dennis Byron’s sibling relation to Opposition Senator Attorney Vincent Byron Jr. He went further to allege a pattern of bias on the part of the Court for the opposition based on the outcome of the 2011 election petition case in Nevis, which favored then Opposition members of the CCM party. The post alleged that justice was being sold to the opposition members. In a letter signed by SKN Bar Association President Charles Wilkin QC dated February 2, the legal fraternity expressed its concern over ‘spurious and unfair attacks” being made in the media and social media against the court and judges of the court. “The court is not above criticism, even strong criticism. However such criticism must be fair, based on facts, and moderated. “Suggestions of bias, or misconduct by a judge and any statement which brings the court into disrepute is contempt is contempt of court, which is an offence,” the communique warned. Newly sworn in Nevis High Court Justice Her Honor Lorraine Williams was quoted as saying while the work of the court is subject to public interest, “our courts have earned and maintained public confidence”. She said judges carried out their duties with impartiality and fearless administration of the Law. “We do not take pledges to support partisan causes or to decide any case according to popular opinion. Justice …is done in accordance with the law and the court should not be brought into public ridicule and contempt because of decisions of the court which are not in conformity with plans, convenient agendas and opinion of others.” Justice Williams pointed out that while judges are human and thus not infallible; there exist avenues of redress for those who seek it.