Chief Justice to meet with walkout lawyers

  • Chief Justice Ian Kawaley

    Chief Justice Ian Kawaley


Chief Justice Ian Kawaley has requested a meeting with members of the Criminal Defence Bar, following an “inappropriate” walkout on Friday.

During a special sitting of the Supreme Court to open the 2015 Legal Year, 15 defence lawyers walked out of the court as Director of Public Prosecutions Rory Field stood to speak.

Mr Field’s reappointment by Governor George Fergusson had drawn criticism from many, who argued that a Bermudian should have been appointed.

In a statement yesterday, the Chief Justice said: “I have requested an urgent meeting with representatives of those members of the Criminal Defence Bar who left the courtroom as a group in the midst of Friday’s special sitting ceremony.

“I consider their conduct to have been inappropriate and I wish to afford them an opportunity to explain their actions, which were a distraction.

“The purpose of the special sitting was for the judiciary and its main legal stakeholders to share with the public a review of the work of the courts over the last year and the commitments for the year ahead.”

During the sitting, Mr Justice Kawaley said the Island’s courts had progressed significantly over the last 200 years in its ability to promote equal justice, but more work must still be carried out.

“The purpose of the special sitting was for the judiciary and its main legal stakeholders to share with the public a review of the work of the courts over the last year and the commitments for the year ahead.”

During the sitting, Mr Justice Kawaley said the Island’s courts had progressed significantly over the last 200 years in its ability to promote equal justice, but more work must still be carried out.

“Bermuda is not just a domicile near the top of the league table in GDP per capita and other positive social and economic measures,” he said. “Bermuda is also near the top of the incarceration rate per capita league table as well.

“And, just as in 1815, a disproportionate percentage of the persons this court is required to lawfully deprive of their liberty in the exercise of this court’s criminal jurisdiction have the same ethnic profile.

“The integrity of the judiciary’s ability to deliver impartial non-racial justice in a society still redefining itself against a racially divided past is compromised by this picture.”

He said that judiciary must improve efficiency in the criminal courts, increase access to civil justice, promote justice for families, while striving to find a way to promote the constitutional freedoms. Mr Justice Kawaley added: “As we head slowly towards the faintly visible 200th anniversary of Emancipation in 2034, should we not aspire to inspire our sister New World jurisdictions not just with our legal wealth creation genius, but our creativity in using the law to promote greater liberty as well?”

Senior Magistrate Juan Wolffe meanwhile discussed the importance of taking a humanistic approach in the Magistrates’ Court, commending the drug treatment court and the pilot mental health court.

“It is imperative that Mental Health Court be given legislative teeth which will provide the court with far more expansive powers to deal with the unique individuals who participate in Mental Health Court,” he said. “We are hopeful that this will take place in the early part of 2015.”

He also noted that a fee reform committee has been tasked with examining the budget for Magistrates’ Court, which is committed to engaging with the community through mentoring, inviting students to view proceedings and educating the public.

“We feel that our efforts should not stop within the precincts of the court,” he said.

“It is our belief that Magistrates can play a vital role outside of the courtroom by implementing community outreach programmes.”

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Published Jan 26, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 26, 2015 at 1:40 am)

Chief Justice to meet with walkout lawyers

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