Delays in cases if not checked Could erode public confidence in justice system
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THE Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), hearing an appeal from Guyana in 2008, commented on the seriousness of delays in the completion of cases and added, “If such delays are not eliminated, public confidence in the justice system in Guyana will surely be eroded.”
However, the CCJ dismissed the appeal brought by former policeman Vibert Gibson against his unlawful dismissal from the force.

The CCJ found that the appellant had no appeal as of right within the meaning of section 6 (d) of the Caribbean Court of Justice Act and the appeal lacked merit in any event.
During the hearing of the appeal,President Michael de la Bastide said, “Before concluding this judgment, we feel obliged to comment on the fact that this case was originally filed in July 1989.

“The High Court proceedings were not concluded until November 2004, more than 15 years after the case was filed.

“ Undoubtedly, there must have been reasons for this, but we can think of none that could justify a delay of that order.

If such delays are not eliminated, public confidence in the justice system in Guyana will surely be eroded, President de la Bastide had said.

The facts of the case disclosed that by letter of June 30, 1989, the appellant Gibson was discharged with immediate effect from the Guyana Police Force on the basis that his discharge was desirable in the public interest.

He then brought proceedings against the attorney general alleging that his removal from the force was unconstitutional, null and void and claiming damages for loss of salary, pension and gratuity.

He contended that he was entitled to the total compensatory package he would have earned had he remained in the force until he reached the age of retirement and that the court should make no allowance for the possibility of his mitigating his loss.
In 2004, the High Court found that the appellant had been unlawfully dismissed and awarded damages equivalent to 24 months salary.

The Court of Appeal upheld that judgment, but allowed the appeal to the extent of ordering the State to pay to the appellant the pension to which he was entitled based on his 20 years’ service in the force. The appellant appealed to the Caribbean Court of Justice.
The court invited submissions from counsel as to whether in all the circumstances the appellant had an appeal as of right within the meaning of section 6 (d) of the Caribbean Court of Justice Act, 2004.

The CCJ held that the appellant had no appeal as of right within the meaning of section 6 (d) of the Caribbean Court of Justice Act and the appeal lacked merit in any event . In order to found a right of appeal the appellant had to establish that the proceedings were concerned with the exercise of the jurisdiction conferred upon the High Court relating to redress for the contravention of the provisions of the Constitution for the protection of fundamental rights , in accordance with section 6 (d). The instant action was one for unlawful dismissal and not one seeking constitutional redress for the infringement of a fundamental right. The claim was not presented as a breach of a fundamental right, nor could it seriously be suggested that the appellant had a fundamental right to salary and pension as if he had continued in his post until his attainment of the relevant retirement age. Accordingly , the appeal was dismissed.

The appellant, Vibkert Gibson, filed notice of appeal to the Caribbean Court of Justice from the decision of the Guyana Court of Appeal, in proceedings arising from the unlawful dismissal of the appellant from the Guyana Police Force. The respondent to the appeal was the attorney general of Guyana .

The CCJ invited written submissions from counsel Benjamin Gibson for the appellant ; the A.G. and Trishala Persaud for the respondent on whether the appellant had an appeal as of right within the meaning of section 6 (d) of the Caribbean Court of Justice Act.

Delivering the judgment of the C.C.J., President de la Bastide said the appellant was discharged from the police force by letter dated 30th June, 1989, with immediate effect on the ground that his discharge was desirable in the public interest. He filed suit the following month against the attorney general, alleging that his removal from the force was unconstitutional, null and void and claiming damages for loss of salary, pension and gratuity.

The appellant appeared to take the view that he was entitled to the total compensatory package he would have earned had he remained until he reached the age of retirement and that further, the court should make no allowance for the possibility of his mitigating his loss. After a trial the court held that the appellant had been unlawfully dismissed. The appellant was awarded damages equivalent to 24 months’ salary. The appellant appealed.
The Court of Appeal (Claudette Singh, and Justices of Appeal Kissoon and Chang) upheld the judgment of the trial court, but allowed the appeal to the extent of ordering the State to pay the appellant the pension to which he was entitled, based on his 20 years’ service in the force. The appellant was given leave to appeal as of right to this court.

The President added, the facts of this case and the circumstances in which an appeal as of right was filed resemble very closely those in the case of Yasseen v A.G. of Guyana [2008] CCJ 3 (AJ), 72 WIR 317 in which this court delivered a written judgment on March 26, 2008. Adopting the same course we followed in Yasseen’s case, we required counsel for the appellant to provide us with written submissions on the issue whether the appellant was invited to appeal as of right. Those submissions were filed and having read them , we can see no reason to alter the view we took in Yasseen’s case, namely, that there is no right of appeal and that the appeal, in any event, lacks merit and should be dismissed.

The President added, “We consider that the identical reasoning applies to this case. Accordingly, we strike out this apeal and for the same reason we declined to order costs in Yasseen’s case, namely that the respondent played no part in the striking out of the appeal, we would make no order as to costs here.”

Other Caribbean Court of Justice judges were Justices Saunders and Bernard.

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