The 5th Biennial Conference of the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers (CAJO) concluded on Saturday, September 30, 2017 at the Renaissance Resort Curaçao & Casino in Willemstad, Curaçao.
Hosted by the Judiciary of the Joint Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, it was the first time the Conference has been held outside of the Anglophone Caribbean. The Conference was sponsored in part by the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project.
Under the theme “Innovative, Independent, Responsive – Delivering Justice in a Modern Court,” the Conference attracted over 150 judicial officers from the Anglophone Caribbean, Curacao, Aruba, Bonaire, Canada and the United States of America (USA).
The Conference began on Thursday, September 28 and featured a keynote address entitled “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied,” by the Honourable Mr. Justice Denys Barrow, Judge at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Opening the proceedings on the Friday morning of the conference, Professor Ernst Hirsch Ballin, Distinguished University Professor at Tilburg University, also delivered a well-received address on “The Fragility of Trust. The importance of judicial stability in national and international political turmoil.”
He noted in his presentation that “strengthening trust is a question of a professional and if necessary courageous attitude. It is also a question of paying attention to people, especially to those who need to be protected, vulnerable law-seeking people.”
Also included in this year’s Conference programme was the launch of the JURIST Project’s Sexual Offences Guidelines meant to provide a framework for dealing with sexual offences (especially where children are involved) and for the court’s handling of sexual offence cases and victims.
Other “hot button” topics discussed at the Conference included cybercrime, judges’ use of social media and judicial gender sensitivity.
The effect of the Hurricanes Irma and Maria on many of the region’s nations was also of concern to many of the attendees. CAJO Chairman and CCJ Judge, the Honourable Mr. Justice Adrian Saunders urged attendees to contribute generously to the various fund-raising initiatives throughout the region and indicated that CAJO would be collecting funds at the conference to donate to the Honourable Chief Justices Eunice Saleh of the Joint Antillean Court and Dame Janice Pereira of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.
During the Conference, CAJO elected a new 13 – person management committee. The Conference also recognized the sterling contribution of the region’s registrars, magistrates, parish court judges and court administrators to the development of Caribbean jurisprudence and the efficiency of regional justice systems. It also called for an enhancement of the status of magistrates and supported the suggestion that they be referred to as parish court or district judges.
The Conference resolution further stated that these judicial officers should enjoy full immunity from suit in the execution of their duties performed in good faith. Additionally, the Association called for improvements in and strengthening of court and case management systems to meet the current and future needs of the justice system and urged that appropriate resources be directed to personnel and court infrastructure to meet these needs. Expressing its disapproval of Heads of judiciary being appointed to acting positions for inordinately long periods of time, CAJO also committed itself to measures that enhance judicial independence and judicial accountability.
The next CAJO Conference will be held in Belize in 2019.
The full resolution is available on CAJO’s website at www.thecajo.org.