Is Justice in Turks and Caicos really blind or what?

Published in Sun TCI byRoyal S. Robinson, MBE
• Mon, Sep 03, 2012

Years ago, even when I was in the public service, I liked going to the Supreme Court to see and hear for myself how important cases were argued for the benefit of the jury or in some cases, the Justice sitting alone, or in a few instances, a three Justice panel sitting as the Court of Appeals. In recent times, I just did not make myself available to listen to the various arguments.

Last Friday, curiosity got the best of me and I attended at the Supreme Court to hear a bright layman in the form of Wilkie Arthur and two officers of the Court in the bodies of Attorneys Courtney Barnett and Noel Skippings, arguing for uplifts so that they could mount adequate and effective defenses.

Let us discount Mr. Arthur for a moment and concentrate on the two qualified bar counsels for a moment! Both had argued before successfully before the Supreme Court and the Appeals Court. In fact, Mr. Barnett can boast of a 75% success rate at the Appeals Court level against a very able and competent Jurist of the Supreme Court. So, one cannot take the line that these persons lack skill and ability.

So to have them having to plead their case in the manner that it was done did not look or sound kosher to me!

When you look at the situation with the foreign lawyers who were brought in as part of the SIPT and what remunerations they are getting from us, you have to wonder the rationale. I can concede the point that in some instances, SIPT might have to deal with certain specialized situations, but there should not be the great disparities that currently obtain between our local lawyers and outside counsel.

Let us not forget that we are paying all. It is our taxpayers’ dollars that are at stake! Furthermore, the bulk of what is paid to the local lawyers would remain in circulation in country, while the reverse would be the position with outside lawyers.

Then when I saw Mr. Barnett having to jump through a number of hoops and invoking those provisions of the European Court of Human Rights articles dealing with discrimination on the basis of race, religion etc. without being able to attack head on some of those provisions, it was pure legal dexterity on his part to say the least!

When a white, foreigner can get the type of remuneration that he rightly deserves without question, and our local boys have to go through such problems to get a little uplift, something is definitely wrong with the system! It does not matter that the Registrar might be new. The information on a case by case basis is within the ambit of the administrators. Just look at the files and see if the process is fair!

What too is striking is that there a few lawyers her who are prepared to take on the human rights issues before the Court on behalf of the little man. Mr. Lloyd Rodney, God rest his soul, did that and Barnett and Skippings to their credit, have taken up that mantle and have decided to soldier on! So give them what is rightly due to them! They should not have to be given the uplift as a matter of right, but when the case merits it, no impediment should be places in their way of getting it.

We have to begin to treat our own equally. There is no better place to start than with the Judiciary. We talk and invoke the notion that there is equality of justice. But how can that be if there is definitely a deficiency when it comes to the equality of arms? We might not have the numbers as yet, but we certainly have the quality! Let us begin at a very good place, that is, before the law and the justice system here in the Turks and Caicos Islands. As Lord Denning is often quoted as saying, “Justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done!”

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