Senior Trinidad and Tobago judge to preside over Turks and Caicos Appeal Court

Justice Alice Yorke-Soo Hon.
Justice Alice Yorke-Soo Hon.

THE JUDICIARY’S second most senior judge has bid goodbye to the court where she has presided for almost three decades.

However, Justice of Appeal Alice Yorke-Soo Hon is not hanging up her robe but will take up the position of president of the Court of Appeal in the Turks and Caicos on April 27.

On April 24, she presided over the last of her appeals at the Court of Appeal, where she was praised for her contribution to the jurisprudence and development of judicial education, particularly in criminal law.

Leading the plaudits was Chief Justice Ivor Archie.

“This is the last time I will have the pleasure of presiding over a panel on which Justice of Appeal Yorke-Soo Hon will be sitting.

“She is leaving us to embark on a new stage of her professional career…I want to express my gratitude and that of the Judiciary and the people of Trinidad and Tobago for her service over the years.

“She has contributed not only to the jurisprudence and work of the court but the development of judicial education,” Archie said, as he also recognised her work in the development of a criminal-bench book for judges. Yorke-Soo Hon chaired the bench book committee.

“We now have a criminal bench book largely because of her.

"I want to assure her that she will be missed.”

Yorke-Soo Hon’s colleagues Justices of Appeal Mark Mohammed and Malcolm Holdip also said their farewells.

“This is the last time we, as colleagues, get to sit together,” Mohammed said. He praised her for her excellence at the criminal bar for over a decade before joining the bench as a High Court judge in 1997 and her conduct of “difficult and dangerous trials” with dexterity and skill or any appellate reversal.

At the Court of Appeal, he said Yorke-Soo Hon authored judgments that progressed criminal law, evidence and practice, describing her as a widely recognised leading criminal-law specialist in the English-speaking Caribbean.

“Such is the calibre of your work. Your grasp of the nuance and complex arguments in criminal law and your ability to deconstruct them…your legacy is significant,” he said.

On a more personal note, Mohammed said she was not only a mentor to many but to him.

“I thank you for showing me the ropes. The loss to our jurisdiction is heavy but we understand you must transition to another phase …”

Holdip spoke of her ability, humility and mentorship. “I have known Alice for 40-something years…it was a wonder to see how Alice was able to evolve through the criminal justice system.”

He thanked her for allowing her intellect to guide all legal practitioners and future generations but said although the pace of work in the Turks and Caicos might be slower, “She is going to enjoy it.”

Criminal defence attorneys Keith Scotland and Jagdeo Singh also paid tribute to Yorke-Soo Hon, who, in turn, praised both of them. Singh appeared to be close to tears, while Scotland was observed blushing while she spoke.

“It is the sad moment you are leaving this jurisdiction. The other jurisdiction has been enriched,” Scotland said, as he recalled doing his in-service with Yorke-Soo Hon. He also remembered her advice after winning two cases: “Not every day will be like this. We give thanks when it is and when it isn’t.”

He also learned of the fellowship Lawyers for Jesus, which she led for many years.

Singh said Yorke-Soo Hon has been a role model and mentor for four decades.

To both attorneys, she said she was proud of their achievements and growth as evidenced by their submissions.

Assistant Director of Public Prosecution Giselle Heller and special prosecutor Wayne Rajbansie also spoke. Heller said a brief prayer, since she had not previously appeared before the judge, while Rajbansie said he learned to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat from her.

For her part, Yorke-Soo Hon said it was a “long journey.

“It is sad for me too, but one must do what one has to do,” she said of her new endeavour.

She thanked the Chief Justice for his support.

“You have been a mentor in many ways….You have such a brilliant mind.”

She admitted that while it was a little more challenging to sit on a panel with him, she was happy she was ending her stint on the bench in Trinidad and Tobago with his input and challenge.

“It will spur me on to dig deeper. I thank you for your leadership and support.”

Yorke-Soo Hon has acted as chief justice and was appointed to the Court of Appeal in October 2008. She also tutored at the Hugh Wooding Law School in criminal practice and procedure, ethics rights and obligations of the legal profession. She was a member of the board of the Judicial Education Institute and a fellow of the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute. She also holds a diploma in training judicial trainers from the University College of London.

She has also chaired other committees which published the sentencing handbook, was instrumental in the implementation of the criminal procedure rules, a member of the Criminal Justice Reform Committee (JURIST Project), and the chair of the Magistrates’ Benchbook Committee.

At present, Yorke-Soo Hon serves as a member of the Sentencing Guidelines Advisory Committee for the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and co-chairs the Monitoring, Evaluating and Facilitating Committee of the Needham’s Point Declaration on criminal justice reform in the Caribbean.


"Senior Trinidad and Tobago judge to preside over Turks and Caicos Appeal Court"

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