The “deplorable” condition of the Garnet Levarity Justice Centre did not go unnoticed Friday (January 12) morning, as members of the Judiciary and Bahamas Bar Association assembled for the Official Opening of the Northern Bahamas Legal Year.
The annual service was held yesterday at Pro-Cathedral of Christ the King.
However, following the religious gathering, the group returned to the Garnet Levarity Justice Centre, where acting Chief Justice Stephen Isaacs, admitted that his is, fully, aware of the concerns raised by local judiciary member with respect to the condition of the courthouse.
“We have opened the Legal Year for 2018, Grand Bahama again has put on a successful show. Father (Harry) Bain’s sermon was spot on. It is good to see old faces again … I did sit here for four years, between 2002 and 2006. I want to welcome all of you,” Justice Isaacs said to those gathered.
Referring to his recent appointment as Acting Chief Justice, Isaacs added, “I did not understand that I would be in this position last month, it sort of fell into my lap; but one of the problems that Freeport has is with the building itself and that is going to be a top priority.”
Justice Isaacs’ statement received a rousing round of applause.
“As soon as we receive all of the details and all of the estimates, and the proposed funds … we have already begun discussing this very same issue, as it is a top priority.”
Also pledging his commitment to addressing the conditions at the courthouse “expeditiously” was Attorney General (AG) Sen. Carl Bethel, QC., who too admitted being aware of the issues raised as it relates to the building.
“Expedition is called for and we hope that our Deputy Registrar (Ntshonda Tynes), in cooperation with all staff here in this office will ensure that we receive quotes and have them given to the Permanent Secretary, and we will get them to The Tender Board.
“The Chief Justice is very concerned about it and he has my full support, and he knows that I will continue to do my very best for justice and for Grand Bahama,” Bethel said.
Speaking exclusively with this daily, Bethel elaborated on moving forward with respect to the state of the courthouse as well as other matters pertaining to the Judicial system, in particular those raising concern on this northern island.
“We are well aware of the conditions and now, more aware of the conditions of the courthouse. It will receive due and appropriate focus coming in the next month. I have asked for the officials here to obtain three quotes to fix the roof.
“The government has already approved monies to do mold remediation, but it seems to me that we need to fix the roof first to prevent the conditions that cause the mold reoccurring, after the mold remediation.
“We will try to expedite that as quickly as possible and hopefully, if we need to get some extra allocation, we will get it in the mid-term budget; that is what we are racing towards, which ought to be tabled in or about the middle of February,” Bethel said.
“We are trying to race against time to get three quotes in and submitted to the Tender’s Board in the space of a month.”
Questioned on the amount of repeat offenders that have received bail for serious offences, Bethel noted that the numbers of such cases remain significantly low.
“The Judiciary, generally speaking, has been unwilling to grant bail where there are repeat offenders … our numbers show that. Our numbers show that the number of repeat offenders getting bail is dropping, every year.
“The point is, however, one repeat offender in my view, who is out on bail and commits an offence is one repeat offender too many. We will be looking at that with the Judiciary; we will have some discussions with them, but by and large the number of repeat offenders, who are released on bail, has been falling.”
Sen. Bethel was also questioned on the possibility of a Remand Center being constructed on Grand Bahama, a matter many local defence attorneys have raised over the years.
“If one were to do a cost-benefit analysis of flying accused persons in from Nassau, taking them before the Remand Court, then taking them before the Magistrate and then taking them back to Nassau, it probably is cheaper to build a Remand Center here. So we will look at that as well. That is something that will more likely come through the Police Budget, because they will be the ones manning it … but we will see,” concluded the AG.