Essay Example on The assertion is made that the judges of the Privy Council are Men









The assertion is made that the judges of the Privy Council are men of judicial eminence which means that we secure for ourselves the same wisdom and learning as the British themselves enjoy However while there is a benefit in having these high quality learned judges in the Privy Council there is a contending argument that these judges lack the understanding of the social dynamics and the culture of our State There is an inherent expectation that the Privy Council is equipped to make informed judicial decisions according to the norms in our society However the Privy Council may be influenced by international opinions even in instances where this is in opposition to local sentiments This was evidenced by the ruling in Pratt v Morgan where having been influenced by the UN Human Rights Committee and the European Court on Human Rights an anti death penalty stance was adopted The view of the Privy Council was that excessive delay on death row amounts to inhumane and degrading treatment and therefore unconstitutional The effect of this case is that persons who spent more than five years on death row cannot be executed As a result of this ruling there have been no hangings in Jamaica since 1998 although the Government has repeatedly reiterated its intention to proceed with this form of punishment Further Rose Marie Belle Antoine is of the view that 

Whatever the correctness of these decisions judging from the furore raised it is doubtful whether the Privy Council correctly assessed the prevailing norms of West Indian society on this issue It seemed to rely more on its own distaste for capital punishment The decision in Pratt has been reinforced in Lewis et al v AG of Jamaica The majority judgment in this case was susceptible to a number of criticisms and that the final decision to commute the death sentences of the six appellants was not impeccably reasoned This has prompted the question whether the judgment was not in some senses influenced by the view that the imposition of the death penalty though formally permitted by Jamaican Law is now anachronistic The results in these cases indicate that judges of the Privy Council will not have an immediate grasp of the cultural or social context in which a particular case may arise Some may argue the benefits in having the judges outside the political and social pressures associating this with impartiality in their decision making It is not however efficient for Jamaica to have judges who sit thousands of miles away who do not grasp the political social and economic life in making the final decisions It is unrealistic to expect a foreign court to be familiar with our norms and the uniqueness of the Caribbean life Rose Marie Belle Antione stated that one may also point to the lack of familiarity with the practicalities of West Indian life for example the adequacy of damages as related to economic conditions sociological peculiarities such as matrilocal societies and the prevalence of common law marriages and children born out of wedlock There are clear differences in sociocultural make up between the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Furthermore the success and achievements of our Caribbean judges should not be undermined

The evidence is that our judges are sound Between 1983 and 1993 63 per cent of their decisions were upheld by the Privy Council This is an indication that judicial excellence exists in Jamaica Furthermore our Jamaican judges will have far superior knowledge concerning the sensitivities and the realities of our society and are apt to have a better appreciation for the factors that should be considered in determining the correct approach to individual cases Notwithstanding the arguments made in support of the abolition of the Privy Council the future of this final Court of Appeal has been placed in doubt after comments made by Britain s senior judge Lord Nicholas Phillips In an interview with UK s financial Times Lord Phillips expressed that the Law Lords on the Privy Council were spending a disproportionate amount of time on cases from former colonies referring mostly to cases from the Caribbean He added that in an ideal world Commonwealth countries including those in the Caribbean would stop using the Privy Council and set up their own final courts of appeal instead This message should be loud and clear and serves as another reminder of the extreme urgency that the Caribbean Region is required to take complete control over their jurisprudential destiny With the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice the hurdles associated with maintaining the Privy Council as our final Court of Appeal will be surmounted and consequently will make the appellate jurisdiction accessible to Jamaicans Furthermore Regional Alliances in the Caribbean are becoming the norm and with our own final Court of Appeal credence will be given to local values social dynamics economics and culture in deciding cases The Privy Council while no doubt a useful and valuable institution during the colonial era has served its time as the final Court of Appeal in Jamaica Following the arguments presented it is no longer practical to retain the services of a court that hinders access to justice to the average Jamaican Furthermore it is not a useful benefit to have judges adjudicating upon matters outside of their political social cultural and economic sphere as no matter how irrational these decisions will bind the judges in Jamaica There is therefore no compelling reason why the Privy Council should be retained in Jamaica

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