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Chief Justice Admits ‘Challenges’ Faced By Judiciary

Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett promised to place greater focus on the work of the criminal court which has been fraught with problems and incompetence for years.

The Chief Justice said he will even hear some bail application matters himself in order for Supreme Court justices to have more time to preside over criminal cases.

“It is our intention to dedicate four courts in New Providence and one in Grand Bahama to deal exclusively with criminal matters,” Barnett said.

Mr Barnett has asked Senior Justice Jon Isaacs to assume a greater role in the administration of the criminal division of the Supreme Court.

Isaacs has a reputation for inexplicably granting bail to serious criminals.

Additionally, Justice Bernard Turner, who now has oversight of civil cases, will begin to hear criminal matters, Barnett announced.

Turner has been criticised for his level of incompetence when he was Director of Public Prosecutions.  Many feel that it was Turner’s incompetence that caused many of the challenges that the legal profession now faces.

Meanwhile, Barnett said several senior lawyers will be appointed as acting judges on the civil side. Those newly minted judges will hear civil matters currently scheduled to be heard by Turner.

Seeing as the vast majority of criminal matters are handled in the magistrate’s courts, Barnett called on magistrates to be more aggressive in the management of their cases.

He admitted that summary matters should be dealt with quickly and adjournments and delays must be kept to a minimum.

Barnett admitted failure on the part of the judiciary while promising to address the massive backlog of cases.

“We are not unaware of our own failures and the need to reduce delay in the delivery of our rulings,” he said.

In an effort to squelch criticism of the judiciary and to intimidate critics, he issued a veiled threat, saying, “we read with some degree of concern comments made by members of the pubic about the work of the judiciary.”

Several Bahamian judges have threatened the media in the past, thinking they are immune from criticism and saying that critics will be held in contempt of court.

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