4 Sept 2013

Another Case of Monkey Island Justice

When I described the law in Trinidad and Tobago as being blind, deaf and dumb… I was being very kind. Because the latest decision from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is quite stunning for its findings of sheer idiocy from the Trinidad and Tobago courts.

In the matter of Monica Jane Ramnarine (Appellant) v Chandra Bose Ramnarine (Respondent) (Trinidad & Tobago),  the many sins committed by the members of the judiciary, at every level from the High Court to the Court of Appeal are astonishing and unforgivable:

6. Before the Board the wife is represented by Mr Guthrie QC and Mr McLeod. They appear for her free of charge and also as a service to the Board, which is deeply grateful to them. Unlike their predecessor in the Court of Appeal, who may have felt some inhibition in this regard, they place at the forefront of the appeal the history of delay in the conclusion of the proceedings for financial relief. The delay can be broken down into five main periods:

(a) The period between the date of the activation of her applications and the date when Tam J began to conduct the substantive hearing of them. This was four years and nine months (February 1997 to November 2001).

(b) The period between the date of the conclusion of the substantive hearing and the judge’s judgment, which he delivered orally. This was in effect four years (January 2002 to February 2006).

(c) The period between the date of the oral delivery of the judge’s judgment and the date of the court’s issue of it in writing (11 pages), together with the court’s notes of evidence (62 pages). This was one year and ten months (February 2006 to December 2007).

(d) The period between the issue of the judge’s written judgment, together with the notes, and the hearing of the wife’s appeal, notice of which she had issued immediately following the oral delivery of his judgment. This was two years and three months (December 2007 to March 2010).

(e) The period between the issue of the wife’s notice of appeal to the Board and the hearing before the Board. This was three years and two months (May 2010 to July 2013), of which the first five months were spent waiting for the written amplification of the Court of Appeal’s judgment and the next 21 months were devoted to the ventilation of issues relating to the husband’s claim for substantial security for his costs of the further appeal.

The Board will address the delay later in this judgment and will seek to express itself in measured terms. But, although the delay must also be appraised in its totality (16 years and five months), the reader should keep in mind in particular the length of the delay at (b) above, namely of four years between the conclusion of the hearing before the judge and the oral delivery of his judgment.

19. The Board returns to the startling feature of this appeal, being not only the overall delay of over 16 years in the final determination of these proceedings but also, and in particular, the delay of four years between the conclusion of the hearing before the judge and the oral delivery of his judgment…/

/…Nevertheless, after all reasonable allowances are made, the Board concludes that the delay of four years was entirely unacceptable and must never be allowed to happen again…/ /…The Board is not asked to determine whether delay in the delivery of his judgment, entirely unexplained, was unconstitutional but on any view it was an affront to family justice; and it was made worse by the further delay of almost two years, also unexplained, in the court’s provision to the parties of a transcript of it and of the notes of evidence.

Note that the Board was not asked to rule on the constitutionality of the delay… If that were one of the purpose of the hearing I shudder to think what would have happened.

But note carefully that the Board described the delay as "entirely unexplained", and "an affront to family justice". This was in addition to the findings of legal misapplication of the law. If we return to my post on The Rule of Law, we would find that at least two of the conditions were breached; that of the law being speedily applied, and that public officials should not abuse their powers .

I shake my head in despair… Only on Monkey Island!