Basseterre, St Kitts, March 10, 2020 – The Organisation of Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Associations (OCCBA) has condemned the attacks on St Kitts’ High Court Judge, His Lordship Mr Justice Eddy Ventose, deeming it “scurrilous and unwarranted following his delivery of a judgement on February 27, 2020 in a matter involving certain public figures.”
“We recognize that the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis is in election mode which carries with it inflamed passions and robust exchanges. Such must never extend, however, to threats of violence against anyone, more so judges in the discharge of their duties,” said OCCB president, Ruggles Ferguson.
He said the OCCBA calls on leaders on all sides of the political divide to counsel their supporters against all forms of violence and threats of violence and to respect decisions of the court even in circumstances where there may be good grounds for justifiable criticism and dissatisfaction.
“Appropriate avenues of appeal exist to challenge the rulings and correct the errors of High Court judges and other judicial officers,” said Ferguson, who commended the Bar Council of St Kitts and Nevis “for rising swiftly and responsibly in condemnation of the attacks and in defence of the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.”
“We urge all constituent Bars throughout the region to continue to stand as watchdogs in the promotion of the proper administration of justice,” said Ferguson, who noted that as Bars “we remain ever stronger when we rise collectively to defend against unwarranted attacks on our judiciary and provide an effective voice, especially in circumstances where our judges are unable to speak publicly. We fully endorse the calls for greater security for Justice Ventose in this period, for a full police investigation into the source of the threats and for appropriate action to be ultimately taken against the perpetrators.
Violent threats are not to be taken lightly. Most importantly, we urge members of the judiciary to remain undeterred in the face of the recent attacks and to continue to discharge your functions fairly but fearlessly, without favour, affection or ill-will, and in a manner that wins the trust, confidence and respect of Caribbean people.”
The OCCBA president called on members of the public to use social media responsibly, as a tool of robust and constructive engagement to address the diverse and challenging issues of society, including the justice system.
“Faceless violent threats against our judges by disaffected persons only serve to undermine the very institution that stands as the last bastion of justice for those who have nowhere else to turn. OCCBA looks forward to a complete and speedy investigation of this matter and a return to calm within the judiciary of the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis,” said Ferguson.
In his judgement, Justice Ventose found St Kitts and Nevis’ Minister of Tourism, Hon Lindsay Grant and Ambassador Jonel Powell liable for breach of trust, breach of fiduciary duty and failure to account or misappropriation of US$460,000 (EC$1.2 million) belonging to a client, Tanzania Tobing Tanzil.
He also ordered Grant and Powell to appear before a Disciplinary Tribunal of two Judges of the High Court to consider whether they should be suspended from practising for a specified period of time or be struck off from the Court Roll.
In his 31-page ruling Justice Ventose also highlighted several abuses of the court process by Registrar Janine Harris-Lake, sister of St Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister Dr the Hon Timothy Harris.