Petition launched to get Court of Appeal to release recordings of its hearings

An online petition has been started urging the Court of Appeal to release recordings of its hearings.

The campaign was started by Robert Moulder, who is embroiled in a land dispute and wants to obtain the record of his Court of Appeal hearing last year.

Mr Moulder wishes to take his case to the Privy Council in London, Bermuda’s highest court of appeal, but says he is being hindered because he cannot obtain copies of the recording.

He started the petition on on September 3. As of yesterday, he had gathered 68 of the 1,000 signatures he wants before presenting the petition to Governor George Fergusson. They have come from as far afield as St Lucia and France.

The Royal Gazette has previously reported on the courtroom recording controversy.

Appellants have complained that they have been unable to get audio or transcripts from hearings they were involved in at the Court of Appeal.

We also reported that the Court of Appeal in the UK records hearings as standard practice, and makes transcripts available for a fee.

Former civil servant LeYoni Junos, businessman Dilton Robinson and members of Bermudians Against the Draft have all been told by Court of Appeal staff in Bermuda that their hearings were either not recorded or were recorded, but tapes and transcripts would not be provided.

Mr Moulder, 57, from Sandys, has been told by an administrative officer at the court that his Court of Appeal recording will not be transcribed, on the order of President of the Court of Appeal Edmund Zacca.

In July, Mr Justice Zacca issued a statement to The Royal Gazette saying that transcripts of Court of Appeal hearings are not required by the Privy Council, so appellants wanting to appeal decisions in the higher court are not at a disadvantage.

Mr Moulder — who represented himself in court — wrote on azaaz. com: “The Bermuda Court of Appeal has previously released audio recordings of its proceedings to parties upon payment of a fee. No longer, for since in or about June 2011 the court has refused to release either the actual audio recordings or transcripts made from these recordings.

“Various explanations have been given, but the most common reason is simply that the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zacca, has ordered that they are not to be released.”

He went on to write: “This is important not only because the court should be seen to be transparent but, significantly, because persons appearing before the court — who placed reliance on being able to obtain these recordings — are being hindered in their ability to proceed with filing further appeals.

“I believe that I am legally entitled to a record of my hearing, and that my rights are being ignored by being denied.

“It is not only me affected; I know of other litigants who also believe that they are put at a severe disadvantage by being refused recordings.

“I understand that complaints have been made to the former Governor and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. These have, thus far, fallen on deaf ears. The issue is now critical, and your help is needed.”

Mr Moulder also refers to a complaint from Ms Junos that Mr Justice Zacca made disparaging comments about her during her own Court of Appeal hearing, referring to her as a “crazy lady” and a “stupid woman”.

His remarks were caught on a court audio recording. Ms Junos was later told she had been given the recording in error and was not entitled to recordings of her further hearings.

Mr Moulder wrote on the petition website: “A previously released recording captured Justice Zacca referring to a litigant as a ‘crazy lady’ and a ‘stupid woman’. Is that the real reason for this ban Justice Zacca? Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory. In UK courts it is standard for recordings to be provided. How can Bermuda fall so far short?”

The Court of Appeal sits three times a year and hears appeals from Bermuda’s Supreme Court. Its decisions can only be overturned by the Privy Council.

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Published Sep 11, 2012 at 9:06 am (Updated Sep 11, 2012 at 9:05 am)

Petition launched to get Court of Appeal to release recordings of its hearings

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