In 2001, twelve Caribbean countries signed a treaty to establish a Caribbean Court of Justice. Despite this, only Guyana and Barbados have adopted the CCJ as their court of appeal with several countries still sending appeal cases to the UK’s privy council.
Privy Councillor, Lord Phillips, has attacked the amount of time British Justices have to spend on Commonwealth appeal cases, when countries are able to form their own court of appeal. The main sticking point for development is the presence of the death penalty in several Caribbean countries. The UK systematically opposes the death penalty wherever it occurs whereas some Commonwealth Caribbean countries do not. This leads to many death penalty cases ending up at the Privy Council.
Shridath ‘Sonny’ Ramphal, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, used a lecture hosted by the Commonwealth Legal Forum last week to urge reform of Caribbean judicial structures.
Now that we have created our own Caribbean Court of Justice and done so in a manner that has won the respect and admiration of the common law world, it is an act of abysmal contrariety that we have withheld so substantially its appellate jurisdiction in favour of that of the Privy Council.
Someday the Caribbean as a whole must accept abolition of the death penalty. I believe they should have done so already, but in a situation of heightened crime in the region popular sentiment has been reflected in political reticence.