Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in a historic move announced that Trinidad and Tobago would abolish criminal appeals to the London-based Privy Council.
She said legislation would be brought to Parliament to remove the British Privy Council as T&T’s final appellate court and replaced with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
In delivering the statement on Wednesday at the Parliament sitting, Persad-Bissessar said she had advised Chief Justice Ivor Archie, the President of the Law Association Dana Seetahal and the Criminal Bar Association head, Pamela Elder SC of this decision.
Persad-Bissessar said the move comes on the heels of a recently concluded CARICOM heads of government conference in Suriname where the matter was discussed by several CARICOM heads and where she gave her commitment to approach the issue on her return home.
“As a measure of our growing confidence in the CCJ, and as a mature and leading world democracy, in this year of our 50th independence anniversary, we will take legislation acceding to the criminal appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ. In very much the same way as other countries have similar to Hong Kong prior to the transfer of sovereignty to the People’s Republic of China in l979 and Singapore in l989. There is ample precedent for such a phased withdrawal from the jurisdiction of Her Majesty’s Privy Council,” she said.
However, the civil matters to the Privy Council would not be abolished.
The prime minister said the time was ripe as our democracy has grown in strength “to take responsibility ourselves for the final adjudication of our disputes consonant with the pristine principles of justice and fair play and say good-bye to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as our final Court of Appeal.”
The measure, said Persad-Bissessar will require a special majority vote of the Parliament and she looked forward to support from the Opposition.
Although the CCJ headquarters was inaugurated in T&T in 2005, Trinidad and Tobago still held on to the Privy Council as its final appellate court.
Persad-Bissessar noted that former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday made the first move in l999 when he announced that his government would provide a site to house the CCJ.
During the 2010 general election campaign, Persad-Bissessar said that her government would not adopt the CCJ as its final court of appeal without a referendum.