ATTORNEY GENERAL’S CHAMBERS
Legal Report by the Hon. Attorney General Rhondalee Braithwaite Knowles OBE on the Opening of the Supreme Court of the Turks and Caicos Islands for the Year 2019
May it please you my Lady Chief Justice Ramsey Hale
My Lord Justice Aziz,
I am pleased to rise once again at your invitation to move the motion for the ceremonial Opening of the Legal term for the Supreme Court of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Especially having had the rightly public admonishment and encouragement of Father Adderley just now to “fall back” to the first principles of our noble profession and his reminder for us to always act with “integrity, decency and sound speech”.
My Lady with your leave, I would wish to recognize the presence of the specially invited guests –
HE the Acting Governor Mrs. Anya Williams
Hon. Premier Mrs. Sharlene Cartwright Robinson
Hon. Deputy Premier Mr. Sean Astwood
Hon. Minister of Education Mrs. Karen Malcolm
Hon. Minister of Infrastructure Mr. Goldray Ewing
Hon. Elected and Appointed members of the House of Assembly
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Hon. Magistrates Mr. Jolyon Hatmin and Mrs. Kamar Anderson
The Acting Director of Public Prosecutions Mrs. Angela Brooks and the Director of Public Prosecutions designate Mr. Eugene Otuonye QC
The President of the Bar Council Ms. Oreika Selver and colleagues at the Public and Private Bars
The Commissioner of Police Mr. James Smith and senior ranks present
The Director of Integrity Commission
The Director of the Human Rights Commission
Father Alvardo Adderley
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen all
It is a privilege to stand here for a fourth year as Attorney General to move the motion for Opening of the Supreme Court 2019.
My Lady, I am pleased to formally welcome Mr. Justice Aziz to the Bench as a Judge in these Islands having been appointed during 2018. It is already very clear that in terms of the work load, his arrival signals a welcomed and much needed addition to the numbers.
I welcome to Eugene Otuonye QC to his new role as DPP and wish him well. We also note the departures of Mrs. Justice Joyner and the former DPP Ms. Jillian Williams and thank them for their service on behalf of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands. I also welcome into the civil division of my Chambers Ms. Dominque Gardiner, newly qualified attorney.
With my Lady’s leave, I propose in moving this motion, to reflect on 2018 as well as to make a few observations on some of the work before us for 2019.
My Lady, 2018 was a fast paced demanding year characterized by continued good work, co-operation and endeavour in a number of areas by stakeholders in the legal arena and significant further progress towards systemic improvements. At times it seemed that there
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wasn’t enough time to keep pace with the many demands on our time and resources in support of the Government’s agenda.
Access to Law – the 2018 Law Revision is an update to the 2014 complete revision and will be published once the Cabinet approves the commencement date. Such regular revisions support the rule of law in conjunction with the publication of the Laws online ensure ready access to the laws of the Turks and Caicos Islands by practitioners and the public at large.
My Lady, this year saw the admission of a number of Islander attorneys ending with the admission of Mrs. Sharlene Richards who is one of several other local attorneys who have recently been provided with training contracts in my Chambers to satisfy the experience requirements for admission under the Legal Profession Ordinance. Others include Willin Belliard, Shantae Francis and Dominique Gardiner and Chassidy Swann all of whom qualified but found it challenging, in all but one case, to find placements at the private bar to meet the experience requirements for admission. With some fifteen new TCI attorneys returning home this year, the public sector cannot do it all and I call on more members of the Private Bar to push themselves to do more to facilitate the training, admission and employment of local attorneys.
My Lady, working in collaboratively with the Chief Magistrate as Mutual Legal Assistance Authority, the TCI made requests for Mutual Legal Assistance to the USA pursuant to the Treaty relating to Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters between the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as extended to the Turks and Caicos Islands.
In 2018 the Turks and Caicos Islands received three (3) new requests for mutual legal assistance. These included a request from Guernsey into the investigation of a civil claim, and a request from Jamaica for assistance in a criminal investigation. We also received a single request for assistance from the Bahamas under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
It is note-worthy, that because of the assistance provided by the Turks and Caicos Islands to the United States of American in 2015 in relation to a health care fraud case, in 2018 the Turks and Caicos Islands through an asset sharing agreement, received $214,107.20
Attorney General’s Chambers | Legal Report on opening of Legal Year 9 January 2019 4 from the United States a portion of the net forfeited proceeds in that case, following restoration of funds to victims.
In addition to the above, the Turks and Caicos Islands continues to provide ongoing mutual legal assistance on three other requests from the United States of America, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
On the commercial law front, more than 115 contracts were completed on behalf of the Government including the construction of a new school, repairs to existing school structures, contracts for the re-grading and paving of roads, consultancy and service agreements to improve the social development sector and healthcare at Public Clinics, repairs to Government buildings, and agreements which will modernize TCIG’s payment and accounting system.
As for civil litigation matters, in 2018 my Chambers handled 32 ongoing litigation matters in various stages. That number included matters related to Planning, the police and Border Control. There were some 14 threatened litigation matters also being addressed.
My Lady, I am pleased to report that 2018 was yet another very active legislative year and with the cooperation and involvement of members of the legal profession, associations and the general public, the House of Assembly saw through to passage some 32 Ordinances whilst the Executive made some 78 pieces of subsidiary legislation to further the Government’s legislative priorities.
It is worth making special mention of some of these legislative initiatives in this setting –
1. An amendment to the Supreme Court Ordinance to recognize the existence of the Offices of the Supreme Court on Grand Turk and Providenciales and empower the Chief Justice to designate such offices in other Islands.
2. The commencement of the Turks and Caicos National Wealth Fund Ordinance which was supported by the deposit of some $8 million dollars as an initial deposit.
3. A range of amendments to a several Ordinances to update our laws to comply with revisions to the Financial Action Task Force standards to combat money laundering, prevent terrorist financing and weapons proliferation.
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4. A new Gaming Control Ordinance demonstrating the Government’s strong commitment to a well-regulated, transparent gaming industry consistent with international standards for best practices.
5. The commencement of the Insolvency Ordinance.
6. An amendment to the Jury Ordinance to remove the limitation on the Court only to appoint talesmen (additional jurors) found in Grand Turk which is an issue when the trial in being held on the island of Providenciales or any other island. This provision was obviously a holdover from an earlier time where all trials were held on Grand Turk and the House of Assembly overwhelmingly agreed to amend the Ordinance so that the Court can press anyone on any island where a trial is being held into service as a talesman.
7. An amendment to section 11 of the Court of Appeal Ordinance to give the Court of Appeal the power to extend the time within which a notice of appeal or leave to appeal may be given in criminal proceedings.
8. A new Hotel and Restaurant (Service Charge) Ordinance to repeal and replace a more limited Ordinance and provide for the collection and distribution of service charge
In the year ahead, work on a number of important initiatives continues, including a new Notary Public Ordinance to repeal and re-enact the Notary Public Ordinance. The new Ordinance will provide a regulatory framework for the office of a notary public similar to that recently introduced in the Cayman Islands and would seek to provide monitoring mechanisms to ensure fairness and proper execution of duties.
Other changes include alternative sentencing provisions with a focus on young offenders would seek to empower the court to, in addition to or an alternative for a punishment imposed by any other Ordinance, impose any of the punishments provided by the Ordinance such as a community service order, curfew order, and exclusion order among others and provides for electronic monitoring.
Status of Children provisions that would seek to provide for the equal status of children by abolishing the distinction in law between children born within or outside marriage, extends the legal presumptions of parentage and for the determination of parentage where challenged.
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In addition to provisions related to maintenance of children and to protect the environment.
I wish My Lady to take this opportunity to publicly thank my team at the Attorney General’s Chamber and recognize their hard work and determination and willingness to go beyond the call of duty on a regular basis to ensure the Government’s agenda is delivered. From the international perspective, the Turks and Caicos Islands underwent three international and regional assessments in 2018. The Global Forum on the Exchange of Tax Information assessed the jurisdiction in July 2018. Their findings will be challenged by the Peer Review Group early this year at the OECD in Paris, France. The BEPS assessment. The mutual evaluation process to assess our compliance with the Financial Action Task Force Standards began in September 2018 and will be concluded by May 2019. The CFATF assessments are used by investment bodies to determine the viability of investments in a jurisdiction and to indicate the strength of the regulatory framework within the jurisdiction’s financial sector. Public and Private sector cooperation will be vital to achieving compliance with current international standards.
It is a rare opportunity to, at once be in the presence of the heads and members of all three branches of government, the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary to once again call for continued observance and respect for the rule of law as a tenant of our society. In this vein, it remains the duty of the executive and the legislative branches of government to demonstrate strong support for the work of the judiciary, respect for the rule of law and true commitment to working closely with and ensuring the viability of our courts systems throughout the islands to promote respect for the rule of law and a just and law abiding society.
In this vein, I wish to publicly especially recognize and thank the Police, the Prison service and the Social Development Department, for their efforts in the administration of justice in these islands.
My Lady, as law officers, we stand in full support of the work of the court and wish you, my Lord Aziz, my Lady Justice Joyner, the Honourable Magistrates, the Hon. Registrar and the entire judiciary a prosperous and productive New Year.
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May the Almighty God abundantly bless our collective pursuits in 2019 and always.
I now formally move the motion for the opening of the Turks and Caicos Islands Supreme Court for the year 2019.
May it so please you my Lady.
Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles, OBE
Hon. Attorney General
9th January 2019