By Artesia Davis
Nassau Guardian Senior Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Seven years ago, former chief justice of The Bahamas and then president of the court of appeal, Dame Joan Sawyer warned that vigilante justice would take over once there was a perception that the independence of the judiciary was gone.
Her remarks at the opening of the court of appeal’s legal year seem particularly prescient in light of the number of murders of people on bail or those who have been acquitted by the courts.
This year, two former murder suspects were themselves murdered after they were exonerated by the courts.
Other victims were murder accused who had been awaiting their day in court.
Bar Association president Elsworth Johnson said that criticisms of judges “can cause persons to lose confidence in the judiciary and that can be very dangerous. Any state where there is not the rule of law, you see anarchy”.
Johnson said politicians are being irresponsible when they blame judges for releasing people on bail when they are aware of the processes that dictate the grant of bail.
He said, “Public confidence in the courts correlates to the concept of the rule of law. Public confidence in the judicial system is what creates stability in a society, and we must be careful of comments about the judiciary.”
Johnson said the courts’ work would be easier if judges were afforded proper working conditions and judicially trained support staff.
Johnson said the courts must guard their independence, even if it means making unpopular decisions.
He said the courts would step in if the police or prosecutors fail to do their jobs to ensure justice.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson said police are concerned about all murders. He said, while there have been retaliatory killings, for the most part people are allowing the judicial process to take its course.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian