A programme for continuing legal education for magistrates and consideration of the formation of a coordinating committee of regional magistrates were among the resolutions at the conclusion of the two-day Conference of Chief Magistrates of CARICOM yesterday.
In her closing address, Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Desiree Bernard expressed the hope that the resolutions arrived at during the conference would be adequately taken into account by those responsible for the soon to be inaugurated Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
The Chancellor noted that each resolution was born of intense discussions on a variety of issues including "...the structure and function of the CCJ and its appellate and original jurisdictions, the harmonisation of procedures in the magistracy, regionalisation of the judiciary and the potential impact of the CCJ, harmonisation of procedures in our various jurisdictions, and legal education in relation to the magistracy and the CCJ."
Justice Bernard remarked that the CCJ's impending coronation inevitably brings open into focus the question of the readiness of the region's magistrates and judges and the legal profession as a whole.
"Are the people of the Caribbean convinced that the quality of justice they expect will not be diminished? These are the questions which must be answered if the court is to fulfil its mandate of ensuring justice between citizen and citizen and citizens and the States," the Chancellor pointed out.
She noted that one of several doubts expressed by "nay-sayers of the establishment of the Court is that it will not and cannot attain the same level of excellence as the (UK) Privy Council since we do not have within the region at present judges or academics of equal scholarship."
But this Justice Bernard declared "...should serve as an incentive for our judicial personnel at all levels to dedicate ourselves and renew our efforts to raise the standard of justice which we deliver to our people."
"It is an immense challenge, but the longest journey begins with the first step, and we must be bold and courageous to take that step," the Chancellor concluded.
Other resolutions flowing from the conference include the establishment of a database on current law, that the title of judicial officers operating as magistrates should reflect the nature of the office with the exact designation varying from territory to territory and magistrates should enjoy similar security of tenure.