Bernard: I agree with CJ

And he also strongly supported Chief Justice Ivor Archie’s concerns, during the opening of the new law term on Wednesday, that the Judiciary should be free of interference from the executive.

“Let me say that I agree entirely with what the Chief Justice had to say,” Bernard stressed in a wide-ranging address during a special sitting of the Industrial Court on St Vincent Street, Port-of- Spain.

Bernard, who spoke in measured tones, delivered a powerful 50-minute address which delved into several issues hampering the efficiency of the court.

These include obsolete computer software, an often misconstrued perception of the operations of the court and the need for judges to understand their role in the preservation of the dignity, honour and independence of the court. Bernard prefaced his speech by acknowledging that he had “stepped out of his crease,” by deviating from the style of previous addresses and hoped that it would be viewed as “non- controversial.” To enhance the court’s efficiency, Bernard said the court needed to be put on a sound constitutional footing. Bernard suggested judges from the High Court be used to hear matters in which their expertise might be appropriate to a particular case and vice-versa.

“This system could be institutionalised as it is in the United Kingdom,” he added.

He also suggested the constitutional arrangements affecting the court be studied comprehensively and that stakeholders pay attention to the relevant aspects of the working document.

Bernard argued, the purpose of providing the court with a proper constitutional foundation was to guarantee its independence.

“I say that, not because we consider that the independence of the court is under present threat, but because there are persons who, notwithstanding the performance of the court over its relatively long existence, see the court as a tribunal similar to a rent tribunal, a mediation board, an adoption board and similar bodies. It is a negative perception against which, notwithstanding its history, the court has constantly to struggle,” he said.

Bernard said although it was created by statute 44 years ago and had compiled an impressive jurisprudence by way of landmark judgments, there existed a “problem” with the public’s perception of its true status.

“That perception is not helped by, it might be truer to say that that perception springs from, the fact that the Industrial Court was not established under the Constitution. That the Industrial Court was not established under the Constitution, is in my view, regrettable,” he told attorneys, public relations practitioners and the heads of various trade unions.

In spite of this setback, Bernard said, the court had carried out its mandate, gaining in the process, the respect of many, who, at the time of its introduction were opposed to its creation.

He felt, however, that the proposed Draft Working Document on Constitutional Reform could have rectified issues affecting the court’s operations over the years.

“A working document on Constitutional Reform has been laid in the Parliament. In that working document, the Supreme Court will continue to be entrenched in the same terms of the present Constitution,” Bernard said. “However, there continues to be no mention of the Industrial Court under Chapter 7 of the draft. I see this omission as arising from inadvertence rather than from a conscious decision to deny to the court a status which, by its performance over the years, it has earned.”


"Bernard: I agree with CJ"

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