CCJ President, Sir Dennis Byron (L) with Dominica prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit (2R)
ROSEAU, Dominica -- The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has issued a media statement denying allegations of corruption made by Dominican lawyer and show promoter, Cabral Douglas.
"Mr Douglas' claim of a politically motivated decision appears to stem from the presence of the court’s president at the 16 to 17 February 2017 intersessional meeting of the heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The president of the court, who is also the chairman of the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC), attended this meeting with members of the RJLSC to present information to the plenary of heads on the commission’s behalf. Such a meeting is an institutional feature of relationship between the court and CARICOM,” the CCJ said.
Douglas had previously lodged an official complaint with the RJLSC citing numerous alleged irregularities stemming from the recent decision of the court in Cabral Douglas v Dominica (CCJ).
Such alleged irregularities included but were not limited to bias/political interference resulting from CCJ president, Sir Dennis Byron, not only attending the heads of government meeting referred to, but announcing that the court had reached a decision, in favour of the defendant country, Dominica, from the same meeting in the presence of the defendant’s prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit.
Douglas noted in response that, as the CCJ confirmed in its statement, Byron was in fact in the presence of the defendant prime minister at the material time of the court’s announcement in favour of the defendant, and was probably why he never attended his own court to deliver its decision.
“To reiterate, we find this to be most disturbing and improper conduct in any judicial proceedings creating the suspicion of political interference and/or bias. I'm quite confident that any objective commission would agree that the appearance of bias and/or political interference cited in my complaint letter is overwhelming and clearly established for all to observe,” Douglas said.
He added that the CCJ statement also confirmed what would appear to be a conflict of interest for Byron as the president of the court accused of bias on the one hand, and also the president of the RJLSC responsible for maintaining the independence and integrity of the court, on the other.
“This constitutes a clear conflict of interests, as I am sure the Commission would also agree, notwithstanding the fact that Sir Dennis Byron sits as its president.
“So at the end of the day, at the Caribbean’s highest court you have a presiding judge, meeting with a defendant, during pending legal proceeding, and this same judge is sitting as president of the very commission responsible for maintaining the independence of the court, to which my complaint is directed.
“As I have indicated, I have lodged the complaint of what is clearly improper judicial conduct with the Commission, in the interest of maintaining the integrity and independence of the court, and I eagerly await the publication of the findings of the Commission in due course," Douglas concluded.