Sunday 15 September, 2019

Judges disagree with Judiciary position on Ole Mas 'criticism'

High Court Judge Frank Seepersad.

High Court Judge Frank Seepersad.

Respect for high office cannot be demanded, it has to be earned.

That’s the position taken by High Court Judges Carol Gobin and Frank Seepersad following a warning from the Judiciary to the public over what it deemed unfair criticism of the administration of justice and judicial officers in an Ole Mas portrayal in Port of Spain over the weekend.

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Dissociating themselves from the Judiciary’s stance, Justices Gobin and Seepersad said from what they observed, they did not see the depictions as unfair, unreasonable or disproportionate, given information in the public domain on matters relating to the Judiciary, judicial officers and the administration of justice. They further stated that the

The High Court Judges stated that they have never felt that the office they hold shields them from criticism or being held to account for their actions in and out of the courtroom.

Referencing the respect for office mentioned in the statement issued by Jamadar, the judges expressed the view that judicial officers have a heightened obligation to ensure that they conduct their professional and personal lives in a manner which is devoid of deviance, dysfunction and duplicity.

“Citizens deserve to have Judges who are above reproach and judicial officers must be cognizant that it will be extremely difficult for members of the public to respect the judgments delivered, if they are unable to respect the individuals who delivered them.”

Addressing the Judiciary’s stated position that the right to freedom of expression is not without boundaries, Justices Gobin and Seepersad said, “the right and ability to engage in social commentary is indicative of a healthy democracy and any attempt to subvert freedom of expression premised upon any misguided perception of untouchability, entitlement or privilege, has to be strongly condemned.”

Below is the statement issued by the High Court Justices:

We have read the Judiciary's media release and unreservedly disassociate ourselves from the contents of same.

As judicial officers we have never felt that our office shields us from measured critique, commentary which are defamatory, or from being held to account for our actions both in and out of court.

Respect for high office cannot be demanded, it has to be earned.

To engender same, the office holder must conduct himself / herself in such a manner which signals that he/she respects and acknowledges the import of the office, treasures the privilege to serve and conscientiously strives to behave in a manner which emulates and adopts the highest standards of honesty and integrity.

As judicial officers we have a heightened obligation to ensure that we conduct our professional and personal lives in a manner which is devoid of deviance, dysfunction and duplicity.

Citizens deserve to have Judges who are above reproach and judicial officers must be cognizant that it will be extremely difficult for members of the public to respect the judgments delivered, if they are unable to respect the individuals who delivered them.

From what was noted via the print and social media, the depictions did not appear to be unfair, unreasonable and or disproportionate especially when regard is had to the issues which have been traversed before the courts, the report prepared by The Law Association, the pending matters still to be adjudicated upon and the preponderance of information in the public domain.

The depictions also appeared to be reflective of the picong, double entendre and humor which is synonymous with Ole Mas.

The right and ability to engage in social commentary is indicative of a healthy democracy and any attempt to subvert freedom of expression premised upon any misguided perception of untouchability, entitlement or privilege, has to be strongly condemned.

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