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Senior magistrate defends court’s efficiency

Senior magistrate Juan Wolffe (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Bermuda’s top magistrate has hit back at claims that the court system is riddled with inefficiencies and incompetence.

Juan Wolffe, the senior magistrate, defended the lower court after top lawyer Jerome Lynch QC claimed lat week that defendants on trial in Magistrates’ Court were often denied a fair hearing because cases dragged on for years.

Mr Lynch said the delays were caused in part because of a failure by magistrates to manage cases, along with administrative errors and diary mix-ups.

But Mr Wolffe rejected the claims – and also questioned if Mr Lynch was familiar with the Magistrates’ Court system.

He said: “May I unequivocally state, I do not accept that any of the allegations stated by Mr. Lynch are true and accurate.

“However, if you are in receipt of even a scintilla of evidence as to Mr. Lynch’s allegations then I will expeditiously address them.”

Mr Wolffe added: “It should be noted that I rarely, if at all, have seen Mr. Lynch conducting matters in the Magistrates’ Court.

“Nor have I received any widespread complaints from counsel who actually do practice in the Magistrates’ Court that their matters have been delayed due to any inefficiencies of the Magistrates’ Court.

Mr Wolffe added: “It should also be noted that the vast majority of times that matters in the Magistrates’ Court are adjourned to a later date are as a result of applications made by counsel or the parties, and that in all of these instances magistrates are available to hear cases.”

Veteran attorney Elizabeth Christopher, a veteran lawyer, also defended the court system and insisted that delays were inevitable.

She said: “I think it’s a very important task but there are so many moving parts that are involved in getting a trial on.

“There’s the defence and prosecution counsels, the defendant, witnesses and that’s why trials don’t always go ahead in a timely fashion.

“I think the court endeavours to do everything it can to make things go smoothly, but what can you do if a lawyer has to cancel because they’re in another court?

“What do you do if a police witness doesn’t want to show up – just drop everything?”

Ms Christopher added: “I know it can be very difficult to get three consecutive days booked in a courtroom, which is why you might have to have one day in January, one day in February, one day in March and so on.

“But what’s the alternative – just put the whole thing off for months? Just cancel everything?

“The system isn’t perfect but it’s a case of making the best of a bad situation. I think the court has worked very hard, particularly during Covid-19, to keep things moving.”

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Published November 24, 2020 at 8:54 am (Updated November 24, 2020 at 8:52 am)

Senior magistrate defends court’s efficiency

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