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Friday 15 December 2017
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Judge sees more cases as economy contracts

THE Industrial Court is anticipating “a greater reliance” on its service as the economy continues to contract, Court President Deborah Thomas-Felix opined yesterday as she highlighted some challenges the court is facing. She was speaking at a special sitting of the Industrial Court for the opening of the 2015/2016 law term, at St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain.

One of the challenges of the Court was inadequate space. Reading an excerpt of a speech she made during the opening of the 2012/2013 law term, Thomas-Felix noted that Judges and staff were occupying spaces at the Port-of-Spain building which was less than ideal.

The Library staff has been removing older books from shelves for storage at an external warehouse in an effort to find space for new volumes which have been purchased. The Registry staff currently make use of a witness room to perform their duties.

“The problem is more now in 2015.

There has been an increase in staff and Judges at the Court and we anticipate that there will be a greater reliance on the Court services as the economy continues to contract.

It is very important that the physical facility at the Court is comfortable for staff and users and I look forward to a speedy resolution of this problem by the relevant authorities,” she said.

Another challenge for the Industrial Court is the “chronic shortage” of court reporters.

Thomas-Felix said the court is currently functioning with ten out of 25 reporters which has caused delay in the court’s stakeholders receiving notes of evidence in their matters. Of the 22 positions of Verbatim Reporter 1, 15 are vacant.

Last year, one Verbatim Reporter retired and another is due to retire is next year, so there are currently seven Verbatim Reporter 1s employed at the Court.

There are also three positions of Verbatim Reporter II comprising of two office holders and one acting incumbent.

“It is extremely difficult for the Court to properly function with ten out of 25 reporters.

“This shortage has directly affected the operations of the Court and has resulted in delays in preparation of notes which are needed by judges to prepare and write their judgments. Also, the Court cannot in many cases furnish parties with Notes of Evidence when they are requested,” she said.

Thomas-Felix said she has held several meetings with the Chairman of the Public Service Commission who she said is deeply concerned and is very supportive in trying to find a solution to this grave problem.

“One can appreciate the skill of a Court Reporter is very unique and difficult to obtain.

Therefore, despite advertising, we have not been able to find persons with this skill set.

We are actively seeking solutions for this problem and ask for the patience and understanding of stakeholders while we resolve this problem,” she said.

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