A group of judges has come out in defense of Chief Justice Ivor Archie saying that at no time did he seek to change security arrangements for judicial officers, nor did he identify any security companies to undertake the task.
The judges took the unusual step of collecting monies among themselves to pay for an advertisement in one of the daily newspapers to outline their position to the public. The judges preferred to remain anonymous but have issued a text and given the mandate to the Judiciary’s Court Protocol and Information Unit to make the necessary arrangements for the publication of the advertisement. It could not be ascertained yesterday how many of the judges were party to the action. But in their statement they said the media often falls into the trap of presuming that “one or two or three judges speak for the bench.” The judges are also said to have undertaken their action without the knowledge of the Chief Justice.
Archie has been under fire recently with media reports alleging he had sought to influence his fellow judges for security arrangements to be handled by a company in which one of his friends had a stake. But this is categorically denied by the judges’ group yesterday.
The judges said they had viewed, with increasing alarm, the narrative which continued to find itself in the print and social media, and in the public domain that Archie, quite of his own volition, sought to “convince” fellow judges to change existing “private” security arrangements in favour of a named security firm, and that approach was taken following a judges’ meeting.
The judges said, “At a general meeting of judges of both the Court of Appeal and the High Court, a number of judges openly expressed personal concerns about the inadequacy of the Judiciary’s internal security arrangements and about their immediate access to emergency police assistance in the event of a crisis experienced by any individual judge.”
They revealed that the Chief Justice was mandated, at the request of the judges, to explore a number of alternative security arrangements and to report to his fellow judges on his progress.
“No individual security companies were identified nor mentioned in the course of the discussions,” the judges stated yesterday.
“It can therefore be without challenge,” the judges’ statement continued, “that at no time did the Honourable Chief Justice seek then or since, to ‘convince’ fellow judges to change existing security arrangements having regard to the inescapable truth that the issue related to security arrangements was raised at the meeting quite independently by fellow judges as their personal concerns.”
The judges said the narrative that had found its way into the public domain was without merit and did not accurately reflect the manner in which the security concerns were raised and discussed, or the mandate given to the Chief Justice by his fellow judges and his undertaking to make general enquiries on behalf of the assembled group.
“The inescapable reality is that judges generally do not and ought not to speak to the press, and protocol dictates that judges do not engage the media about the business of the Judiciary,” the statement said. They concluded, “It is hoped that the false narration referenced herein does not continue to perpetuate itself in the print and social media and by extension in the public domain.”
On November 17, High Court judge Carol Gobin made a call for a meeting with Archie to discuss “very serious and scandalous allegations” about Archie’s conduct.
“If it turns out these sordid allegations are without any foundation or truth, then I believe we are duty bound to forcefully defend the office of Chief Justice and the judiciary,” Gobin had said in a statement.
However, in a response Archie declined the request for a meeting expressing concern about leaks from meetings into the public domain. “For this reason, I recoil at the very idea of placing the bench in such a position again,” he said.
Leaks of information put judicial officers at risk and tarnished their reputations, he said, and felt any meeting would be counter-productive. Archie, however, assured judges his door was always open to them. Gobin has since replied she was disappointed by Archie’s response to her request.