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Court renovation soon complete

By Fernella Wedderburn

The renovation of the magistrates’ courts at Coleridge Street is expected to be completed within another two weeks.

That update from Attorney General Dale Marshall following a tour of the facilities on Monday with Chief Justice Sir Patterson Cheltenham KC and other officials.

“We opened the major part of this complex on November 18 last year that would be the Henry Forde and David Simmons [Legal and Judicial] Complex which gave us a home for the Law Reform Commission, Community Legal Services, the magistrates’ court offices and as well as four courts.

“What we had not completed by then was the old town hall building built in the 1740s, and that is just about complete…. That old town hall will be the home of Barbados’ arbitration centre. We expect to use the renovated rooms in that old town hall for arbitration purposes and mediation,” the Attorney General told the media in the courtyard.

Marshall explained that all the District ‘A’ Magistrates’ Courts which were temporarily sitting at the Supreme Court were to be housed in the new complex, but because of the increase in judges at the High Court, courtrooms had to be found for three judges.

“So that meant that we had to inconvenience two of our magistrates. So I had given instructions that we refurbish and reoutfit these old limestone buildings,” he said. “I expect that these buildings will be ready for occupation by two of our magistrates within the next week to two weeks. Once this is done, I think we will be at the end of that long road which would have seen us take the old Coleridge Street home for the law and completely modernise and renovate it so as to bring all of these building that were left to decay back into modern functional use.”

In recent months, the District ‘A’ Magistrates’ Courts No. 1 and No. 2 moved to the complex and are sharing a courtroom, after a year of holding court at the Supreme Court and at Cane Garden, St Thomas, respectively. However, the District ‘A’ Traffic Court is yet to move back to Coleridge Street as it is still hearing matters at the Supreme Court in the afternoons.

“We have been able to [improve] the working conditions for the clerical officers who laboured in major discomfort, especially magistrates’ court for many years . . . ,” said Marshall.

“Completing this allows us to rationalise what we are doing and to fully accommodate an expanded criminal bench, re-establish District ‘A’ in town as the seat of our magisterial work, and provide for Barbados a facility for arbitration.”

Marshall also disclosed that plans are in the works for District ‘C’, which he described as a very old facility with conditions “not up to standard”.

“We are currently looking at plans for a new civic centre in Six Roads that has been talked about for many years. We have had several designs. I have given some instructions recently that we need to relook the design, and when we can get that project on the ground, we will see a new District ‘C’ Magistrates’ Court building there.

“We need to enhance the police presence in Six Roads as a town centre and, therefore, in keeping with that, we expect to be able to do a new civil centre there which will have the court, the police station; there’s a plan for a fire service,” the AG added.

Marshall said with a backlog of 16 000 cases, consideration was also being given to whether the current structure of the magistracy continues to be relevant for Barbados today.

“We have, for example, two criminal courts. . . one traffic court, one civil court, one family court, all at District ‘A’ . . . . So we have to think about how we rationalise the workings of the magistrates. So I may – I am not saying that I will, but I may – have to say to the Prime Minister that we need to find a way of easing some of that pressure, and that may result in an increase in the size of the Bench. Of course, that then requires a demand on facilities, so we are going to talk all about the other options that are available to us,” he said.

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