GSD ‘concerned’ over decision not to renew judge’s contract
The GSD has expressed concern over the decision of the Gibraltar Judicial Service Commission not to renew the contract of Supreme Court Judge Adrian Jack, as it questioned whether the decision would leave Gibraltar’s courts improperly resourced.
This comes after the Gibraltar Government confirmed Mr Jack’s departure and issued a statement on the assurances Mr Justice Jack said he received from the Judicial Service Commission.
“The Government is unable to comment on those assurances as the JSC is entirely independent of Government,” a spokesman said
But, in a statement the GSD said the explanation given by the Government, based on the uncertainty created by Brexit, does not sit well with recent announcements of increased public expenditure generally.
The view adopted by the Government is also that there is now no need for a fourth Judge, the Opposition added.
“This view is out of sync with the legal profession and appears to be at complete odds with the Appropriation Bill passed at the end of June, where clear provision was made for the three judges in addition to the Chief Justice.”
“What has changed since the passing of the Budget in Parliament?” the GSD queried.
“Was the legal profession consulted?”
“We seem to be able to commit to increasing the salaries of senior civil and other public servants but we cannot maintain an additional judge who has demonstrated an impressive commitment to Gibraltar.”
The GSD flagged how the Minister for Justice has sworn an oath under the Judicial Services Commission Act to ensure that he upholds the administration of justice and the continued independence of the judiciary.
As part of that obligation, the Opposition said, the Minister of Justice has a duty to ensure that the Courts are properly resourced.
The GSD also highlighted how the Budget for 2017/2018 has made provision for a fourth Judge.
It said that the decision by the Government to not now fund a fourth Judge represents a clear U-turn of that position.
“Gibraltar's judiciary is one judge down leaving many unanswered questions,” the party said.
The GSD further stated that Gibraltar's Court Service needs to be agile and robust in order to deal with complex and high value litigation that descends on these shores.
“Gibraltar's international reputation as a jurisdiction for adjudicating disputes depends on a well-resourced Court Service which can deliver not only to those in desperate need to access justice in our community but to international business who choose to litigate their disputes in our jurisdiction.”
“The Government is inviting significant business to establish a presence in Gibraltar and the resourcing of our courts cannot be underestimated.”
“Failing to appropriately resource our judiciary will seriously impact on our ability to attract new business to Gibraltar.”
The GSD highlighted the comments of Keith Azopardi, Chairman of the Bar in last year's Opening of the Legal Year who said in relation to Access to Justice: “I do wish to make it clear that this is an area where urgent reform is required because many people are now unable to access justice and when they do face inequality of arms.”
“If the Government are truly committed to allowing people who most need it, to access the Justice system, the decision not to fund a fourth judge is inconsistent with that commitment,” the Opposition said.
The Opposition therefore called on the Government to explain the “reversal of its position” in the Budget by refusing to fund a fourth Judge.
The GSD thanked Mr Jack for his service to Gibraltar and delivering what has been described by the Bar Council's spokesman as a "mini revolution" within the Court Service.
“Mr Jack's impressive work output and contribution to the administration of justice in Gibraltar is unquestionable and combined with the work by the Chief Justice and our other Judges, our judiciary are able to resource complex and high value commercial litigation.”
“Mr Jack was an important part of the delivery of that service and he will be missed by many.”