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“There are weaknesses that need to be cured in Dominica’s judicial system,” says High Court Judge amid calls for remedial action

By Ronalda Luke

In a resounding call to action, Dominica’s High Court Judge, His Lordship Justice Colin Williams, has boldly addressed the critical flaws which according to him undermine the essence of justice in Dominica’s judicial system. With unwavering conviction, Justice Williams has sounded the alarm on the pressing weaknesses that urgently require remedy to ensure the nation’s effective and efficient administration of justice.

At the recent close of the January session of the High Court, Justice Williams contended that the rule of law is being compromised by systemic failures within the judicial infrastructure. The revelation of overcrowded prison cells and the prolonged duration of cases before the Court, plagued by lengthy delays in trials, were cited by Justice Williams as clear indicators underscoring the urgent imperative for reform.

With a sense of duty and responsibility, His Lordship emphasized the importance of speaking truth to power, even in the face of discomfort or resistance. “When things are wrong, they want you to say all is well. But it is not,” the judge remarked, highlighting the prevailing culture of complacency that threatens to erode the fabric of justice.

“I have to temper my words very carefully because people get very sensitive when you speak the truth. They don’t like you to say true things, they prefer you to be diplomatic or nice and pretend that all is well when it is rotten.”

 He continued, “In this particular era you can’t offend people and if speaking the truth offends them then you can’t speak it and you must tell people that they are doing well when they are not.”

Drawing attention to the backlog of cases and the excruciatingly slow pace of the Preliminary Inquiries (PI), Justice Williams questioned the definition of success in the context of the judicial system. Despite boasting a 100% completion rate for the January session, the judge challenged the notion of success when hundreds languish in prison without trial, some for years on end.

“So, what is success,” he challenged. “From this assizes, between January and March, we had 13 matters and from this, only two went to trial. But the 13 matters are completed. That is a success, isn’t it, that’s a 100% record, we have no matters left over. But tell that to the 119 males sitting down in the prison on remand awaiting trial. Now is that success?”

 Justice Williams’ scrutiny further extended to the alarming delay in bringing cases to trial, with some matters pending for nearly a decade. Such egregious delays he posited not only undermine the principles of justice but also jeopardize the integrity of the legal system as a whole.

“So, are we using time efficiently and effectively?” he queried. “I ask these questions as a person who is in the administration of justice, and who must see things of a particular perspective as to how do we preserve the rule of law.”

Furthermore, Justice Williams lamented the lack of urgency in addressing Preliminary Inquiries, citing unacceptable timelines that prolong the suffering of both the accused and the victims. The judge advocated for the adoption of best practices from other jurisdictions, where expediency and efficiency are prioritized without compromising due process.

“The standard dictates that matters should reach the High Court within a year. In colonial times when we had Massa, they would do it. Now all of a sudden we become independent and laid-back making it seem as if we are incapable of doing things efficiently and effectively when it is not so because other jurisdictions like us can do it.”

He pointed to a recent matter dealt with by the High Court which occurred in 2014. “There were two witnesses in the matter and it reached me in 2024; two witnesses…what is a success again I ask, what is an achievement, are we delivering justice to the people of the Commonwealth of Dominica, because ladies and gentlemen the rule of law is important and the rule of law can’t be upheld, in such circumstances.”

 His Lordship left no room for ambiguity, asserting that the current state of affairs is untenable and demands immediate redress. “This is your country, and we have to do better,” the judge declared, echoing the sentiments of a nation yearning for a judicial system that upholds the rule of law in its truest form.

“It is not a personal reflection on any individual and I’m not pointing fingers at anybody, just raising questions and I’m identifying the weaknesses that we need to cure. The rule of law is being undermined by persons who must know better and who can do better.”

He further averred, “By all means, if someone is guilty, they must face the consequences of punishment, convict them, but a person is not expected to be punished awaiting trial. Also, the people who are being punished are not just the accused but those whom the offense has been committed against because their matters are not coming up and ultimately what happens, is memory fades, witnesses, disappear, die or they become no longer interested. I suppose this is the style of the Commonwealth of Dominica but it a style that is not conducive to the delivery of justice.”

In closing, His Lordship posited that the notion of success in the context of Court proceedings must transcend mere statistics. While achieving a 100% completion rate may seem commendable on the surface, it rings hollow when juxtaposed against the stark reality of overcrowded prisons and countless lives left in limbo.

“The 100 percent disposal looks good but it is bad because of the 119 inmates on remand. And if 119 people are in prison awaiting trial, what about those who got bail? So just think about it, how many people in Dominica are awaiting trial while we close the assizes in March with no work to do.”

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I hope the Chief Justice of the ECCA is listening and will say and doing something about this unacceptable situation in Dominica. Such situations only lead to increase crime and violence in society. Thank you Judge for your fearless evaluation.

  2. Your Lordship watch your back, according to Senior Counsel Tony Astaphan who told us of even a Sitting Prime Minister Pierre Charles whose fingers they bit while stabbing him (figuratively)in the back!
    These Politicians are not easy in the Commonwealth of Dominica , The police are busy chasing Senior Citizens dressed in white on Wednesdays and they barricade said Citizens if they as much as attempt to get close to the Government Headquarters so it seems not to be a shortage of policemen that are the problem because they have been known to be sent to Marco their girlfriend of prominent Ministers responsible for law and order.we heard it directly from a Member of Parliament whose conversation was recorded and aired on public radio ,that Member even stated that even if that Minister did something very wrong that they would all support him regardless
    The head of the police seem to be affected Your Lordship we saw the Choski matter,very sad to say the Police seem not to be friends with the truth
    To make a king story short we need a complete reset your Lordship From Captains down to cooks in every aspect of governance!

    Watch your back!

  3. I wish this message would touch the heart of the people in there who are responsible and that know better, God bless you sir, That’s a message from the lord , he moved you to do so,
    He knows the bashing you are expected to recieve especially how our culture has changed , since we lost the fear of god ,and truth is no more welcome in our conversations , truth is being treated as lie , and lie as truth, and the spirit of dishonesty is roaming our land,
    But I believe God has your back,

  4. Finally, someone as the caliber of a judge has to highlight the incompetence of the Dominica’s judicial system. How long can this incompetence continue. This is a very serious matter and should be a National outcry. The Minister of Justice, Immigration and National Security Rayburn Blackmore needs to step up to the plate and do something. The DDP and her office should be called out for their incompetence, don’t know why she was recently appointed, bewildering. Ask the Editor of this site who by the way experienced a long agonizing delay in a legal matter. Let us hope this scadding remarks from the Judge does not reach death ears.

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