Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Honourable Dame Janice M. Pereira, DBE LLD said that shifting the ceremonial opening of the law year from September to January was as a result of challenges the court has experienced since 2017 due to the heightened hurricane activity within the region.
Dame Pereira while addressing the ceremonial opening of the Law Year of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court on January 13 said the institution has broken with tradition out of practicality.
“What is not customary is that we are gathered here today in the month of January, and not September as has been tradition throughout the existence of this court,” Dame Pereira said.
The Chief Justice acknowledged that advancements are taking place at an increasing rate and said that the court must therefore reform existing processes and procedures where necessary and implement new measures to ensure that it continues to fulfill its mission. She underscored that “change is the only constant and the world we live in is constantly evolving,” as “we continue to strive to be a court that is not only reactive to changes in society, but also proactive in seeking out new initiatives to improve the administration of justice for the Eastern Caribbean.”
Dame Pereira outlined developments that are in the pipeline in the Virgin Islands including providing temporary accommodations to the levels befitting of court offices and have them outfitted with state of the art equipment. She also added that she was pleased to highlight the efforts being made by the Government of the Virgin Islands to commence the first phase of the Halls of Justice Project.
Other initiatives she stated include:
- Extending the provisions of the E-Litigation Portal which enables e-filing of all cases in the Commercial Division and in the Court of Appeal to civil cases with plans nearing completion for early implementation in 2020.
- The launch of the first set of ECSC Sentencing Guidelines for drug offences, offences of dishonesty and sexual offences under the Sentencing Guidelines Project.
- Drafting of New Criminal Procedure Rules for implementation in the criminal jurisdiction which are farthest advanced in the Territory of the Virgin Islands.
- The appointment of a Civil Procedures Rules Review Committee with the mandate to “undertake a thorough review the Civil Procedures Rules 2000 and to make recommendations for amendments to more effectively deal with civil proceedings in a changing court system.
The ceremonial opening of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court was held under the theme “A New Era for the ECSC: The Road to Achieving Court Excellence”. The Special Sitting of the ECSC was presided by Senior Resident Judge the Honourable Justice Vicki Ann Ellis.
The court is comprised of the Chief Justice, who is the Head of the Judiciary, five Justices of Appeal, High Court Judges; and High Court Masters, who are primarily responsible for procedural and interlocutory matters. The Court serves its Member States by providing access to a system of justice that is accountable and independent, and administered by officers in a prompt, fair, efficient and effective manner.