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Judiciary sinks

Part 1
Published: 
Saturday, March 10, 2018

I set sail in the Galleons Passage which is expected to run aground at Port-of-Spain due to bad weather and rough seas. When I disembark, I must immediately visit the Hall of Justice. One High Court Judge recently sounded out that “all is not well on Knox Street.”

Before I batten down the hatches, I cite authorities/precedents where the Judiciary of England has welcomed and even encouraged criticism of its rulings and judges. Lord Denning in one of his books, What’s Next in the Law refers to historical facts when political heavyweight Michael Foot declared Denning is an ass.

He further recalls the English Press, The Observer had a headline, “Why Denning is an ass.” Not least was The Times which was less insulting on a personal basis but stated that: “The decision of the House of Lords in the Granada Television case is restrictive, reactionary, and clearly against the public interest.”

Most of the sport fans have been following in the press, the recent dispute between long-time table tennis players, Dexter St Louis and Rheann Chung versus the Trinidad and Tobago Table Tennis Association. St Louis and Chung challenged the Association’s decision to send two younger players to the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

In what can only be described as a queer and rare decision, the Court of Appeal (See all daily newspapers published 3/03/18) upheld an injunction which resulted in absolutely no Table Tennis player participating on behalf of Trinidad and Tobago at the Commonwealth Games.

Immediately, some sporting bodies around the country took the view that the court had gone overboard. In their view the court appeared to discredit itself by making unreasonable requirements and imposing undue burdens upon the very bodies which sought to promote a public interest amidst very trying circumstances.

Did the Court appreciate our local sport culture at all or even stop to think of the nature of the majority of sporting organisations in the country ie that they are non-profit bodies staffed purely by volunteers?

The fact is that they are perpetually in dire need of resources. Shouldn’t the court have been slow to impose requirements on these sporting bodies thereby preventing the precedent for anyone to now bring before the courts for review, honest deliberations and decisions? It is obvious that these bodies are unable to deliberate like Supreme Court judges do but that does not necessarily mean that their decisions are bad or wrong.

One can understand that maybe in instances of actual malice directed at a player that a court would be tempted or coerced to interfere but otherwise it is plainly usurping the function of a body far better fitted to judge than the courts.

My interest in all of this was the reported comments of the learned judges. They apparently spoke to maintaining transparency and fairness on the part of these bodies and a duty to give reasons. The latter is ironic when one considers that the very appeal they were asked to determine was premised on the fact that the first instance judge gave no reasons whatsoever for continuing an injunction stopping ALL players from going to the Games. The court appeared to have condemned the Association for lack of reasons for recommending its selected players when the court itself gave no reasons for arriving at its decision.

The “balance of justice,” according to the court was to send no players to the Games as opposed to sending players which were selected by a process perceived to be unfair. In other words, the sport of table tennis would be better off in ensuring that there was fairness and transparency in the selection process.

As a lay person, this is where I find the court to be indulging in double standards. You must practice what you preach. These said standards imposed upon the litigants must be imposed upon the judiciary itself. It would be far better for the administration of justice, that the public have trust and confidence in the selection process than to have judges appointed under a system which itself is perceived to lack transparency, and secretive at best.

Till this point, I have only set course and tested the waters, but next week it is all hands on deck as we consider inter alia the recent decision halting the Law Association from investigating the circumstances surrounding the Honourable Chief Justice.

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