Basseterre, St. Kitts, February 19, 2019 (SKNIS): Attorney General of St. Kitts and Nevis, Honourable Vincent Byron, has suggested that if the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis were to sign on to the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) the decision must be reflective of the will of the people.
The subject of the CCJ was one of myriad of issues raised by young people attending a recent National Consultation on YOUth Forum with the Federal Cabinet of Ministers at the Royal St. Kitts Hotel on February 14. The forum formed part of a calendar of activities for the government’s fourth anniversary in office.
Attorney General Byron said that there are “many benefits” to be gained if the twin-island Federation were to accept the CCJ as its highest court instead of the Privy Council. There would be cost savings as travelling to England and engaging lawyers there to argue a case tend to be very expensive. The CCJ typically hears matters electronically.
Additionally, the chief lawyer for the Government said that arrangements setting up the court in terms of establishing a trust fund, which takes care of all financial arrangements, gives the CCJ independence from political interference. Furthermore, Honourable Byron said that the St. Kitts and Nevis government believes that regional judges in Caribbean courts have, over the years, have shown that they have integrity, and he hopes “that sooner rather than later that the Caribbean Court of Justice will replace the Privy Council in London.”
“We have to determine that we will move [to the CCJ],” he said, but added that “we believe there needs to be more education; there needs to be a time when the people demand that we do so.”
The London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) is still the final court of appeal for most member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
The matter of the Appellate Jurisdiction of the CCJ has been the subject of much regional debate and at times controversy. Although the CCJ was established on February 14, 2001, to replace the JCPC with its Caribbean Court of Appeal, to date, only Barbados, Belize, the Commonwealth of Dominica and Guyana have acceded to its Appellate Jurisdiction.
On November 6, 2018, constitutional referendums were held simultaneously on Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada to replace the British JCPC with the CCJ. Both referendums failed.
St. Kitts and Nevis, along with Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, signed on to the Original Jurisdiction establishing the CCJ in 2001. The Original Jurisdiction of the CCJ interprets and applies the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which established the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). The Original Jurisdiction of the CCJ is a critical component in the way the CSME functions.
In 2003, the Commonwealth of Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed on to the Original Jurisdiction bringing the number of signatories to 12.