Nassau, The Bahamas — Law reform will be among the list of priorities for The Bahamas government in 2009 advised the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs the Hon. Michael Barnett as he addressed a special sitting of the Court of Appeal of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas to mark the opening of the legal year on Thursday.


“Every statute will be subject to review, from the Penal Code to the law relating to the licensing of shops and restaurants. As we continue to develop a modern society, we must review our laws to ensure that they reflect the needs and realities of a 21st century Bahamas,” Mr. Barnett said.


“The Libel Act was passed in 1843, the Slander Act was passed in 1909 and the Habeas Corpus Act is the English statute passed in 1679, in a language few of us understand and refers to a Sheriff, who is unknown to us,” he continued.


Additionally, the Attorney General said the advances in information technology has changed the way business is conducted and suggested that publication of notices on a website is a “less expensive and a more effective and wider means of informing the public than the publication in the Gazette or in newspapers published and in general circulation in The Bahamas”.


“…The need for law reform has been brought to my focus in a very personal way over the past few days as I have been obliged to personally sign the renewal of Notary Public licences for the hundreds of members of the Bar. Surely, it cannot be necessary for a Minister to personally endorse a renewal of a Notary Public’s license…,” the Attorney General said.


Mr. Barnett credited the Court of Appeal for its disposal of cases on a timely basis. The Court’s Annual Report, the Attorney General said, indicates that the “backlog of cases that regrettably affects both the Magistrate’s Court and the Supreme Court does not affect this court. This Court of Appeal has dealt with cases expeditiously and the administration of justice has been served by this reality.”


Among his reflections of the previous and upcoming terms, Mr. Barnett noted that the departure of Justice Gantpatsingh in October of 2008 and the imminent departure of Justice Osadebay this year calls for an increased focus on securing experienced jurists to fill the vacancies.


“It is imperative that we secure the services of persons with the necessary scholarship and judicial temperament to serve in this high office. The panel from which this selection must be made cannot be limited by nationality or geography,” Mr. Barnett said.


Furthermore, the Attorney General called for the terms and conditions under which justices serve to be addressed.


“In this regard, a new Commission under the Judges Remuneration and Pension Act may have to be appointed this year earlier than the three years since the last Commission to make further recommendations as to the terms and conditions under which Justices of both the Court of Appeal and the lower court serve. We are committed to doing all we can do to strengthening the administration of justice in our country,” he added.







NASSAU, The Bahamas — Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs the Hon. Michael Barnett addresses a special sitting of the Bahamas Court of Appeal to mark the opening of the Legal Year, Thursday, January 8. (BIS photo/Patrick Hanna)