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Lawyer wants Duke to shut down Sando court

Friday, July 18, 2014

The call by attorney Ainsley Lucky for Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke to shut down the dilapidated San Fernando Magistrates Court has not fallen on deaf ears.
Duke has responded in the affirmative. “It will be done sooner rather than later,” Duke said in a text message response yesterday. While Assembly of Southern Lawyers president Imran Khan agreed the courthouse needed urgent attention, he is not supporting a shutdown right now. The problems at the courthouse are not new. Ten years ago then chief justice Sat Sharma said it was time to take action to deal with the deplorable conditions at various courthouses, including San Fernando.

In a daily newspaper in January 2004, Sharma was quoted as saying:  “We should fast-track things where court buildings are concerned. “They are in a deplorable condition, sub-human and primitive, and clearly are not functioning. “We have isolated four courts which we feel should receive urgent and immediate attention — Chaguanas, San Fernando, Siparia and Rio Claro.” In 2007 immediate renovations to the courthouse were done by the Judiciary after the Public Health Department of the San Fernando City Corporation condemned the building and declared it a health hazard. Lucky complained to Deputy Chief Magistrate Mark Wellington in court on Tuesday about the same problems, saying he would be seeking Duke’s intervention.


Khan: Court to be fixed soon

In an interview yesterday Khan explained that in a recent meeting with Chief Justice Ivor Archie he was assured plans were afoot to relocate the old San Fernando court to a temporary building by early next year. That building is next to the Madinah Building, Court Street, which houses the Traffic and Family Courts. Those two buildings at Court Street, which are privately owned, were earmarked over ten years ago to house the courts while renovations were done to the old court. However, only the family and traffic courts were relocated in 2008. At the opening it was said that the plan to relocate  the criminal courts temporarily to the other building had been delayed owing to cost evaluation and design change. Khan was asked how confident he was that plans for the courthouse would materialise, given the history of empty promises over the years to fix it.


He said: “I could only go with the assurances of the Chief Justice at this point. We can only hope that this thing will pan out. “There is a great need to try to cut through whatever bureaucracy or whatever problem is preventing the project from going forward. “If by the next two or three months we don’t see any position action being taken to address the situation we may have to review the call of Mr Lucky.” However, he said, strike action at the courthouse would not only affect the public and those who used the facilities but the entire justice system would grind to a halt. “I would support the need for urgent and immediate action to address the situation at the magistrates court. “There are no two ways about it that the facilities there are sub-standard and there is need for immediate remedial action,” he added.


Judiciary responds

In a statement, the Judiciary said it was aware of the existing conditions at the San Fernando Magistrate’s Court. It said: “Remedial work is being undertaken to address some immediate needs but there are plans to conduct a general upgrade of the court building. “We are at the point of evaluating tenders for that activity, which include administering a feasibility study in the first instance and the development of recommendations for all external and internal works. “This should be completed over a two-month period.”


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