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Attorney-General calls staff shortages ‘untenable’

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and Government Senate Leader, has warned about staff shortages in the Judiciary (File photograph)

Staff shortages in the court system are slowing up justice, the Attorney-General has warned.

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Government Senate leader, told the Upper Chamber of Parliament “serious” shortages had led to a “constriction of the public’s constitutional right of access to justice”.

Ms Simmons, speaking on the budget for the Ministry of Legal Affairs in the Senate on Friday, revealed that only 37 of the 70 posts in the department were filled.

She added: “The current staffing shortages throughout the department have reached very serious levels, the repercussions being the constriction of the public’s constitutional right of access to justice.

“The inability to retain post holders and attract new recruits from the private sector, has inhibited the forming of and indeed the preservation of an unshakeable foundation which the judiciary requires to efficiently service the public.”

She said 2017-18 had been another challenging year for the judicial department “as reported by the Registrar and the Chief Justice”.

Ms Simmons added: “Those of you who actually tuned in to the opening of the legal new year ceremony would have heard some of the concerns articulated by the Chief Justice.”

She said the pay for positions such as court clerks, court associates and administrative officers could not compete with the salaries and benefits offered by the private sector.

Ms Simmons added that this made it difficult “for us to recruit at times, thus losing quality Bermudian workers, a position which is unsustainable given the need to boost the development of the Bermudian workforce within the civil service”.

“This is basically the result of the structure we have.”

Ms Simmons said department managers had taken on an increased “administrative remit in managing the judicial department administratively, while the registrar continues to make all efforts to fully discharge her statutory and delegated judicial remit”.

She added: “Efforts are under way for the assistant registrar post to be transformed into a quasi-judicial post.

“We hope these issues can be addressed immediately in order to stabilise the current, untenable status quo.”