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Trinidad: Bill gives CJ unprecedented powers

OPPOSITION Senator Wade Mark said new legislation empowers the Chief Justice but undermines the Chief Magistrate.

He was contributing to debate on The Miscellaneous Amendments (No 2) Bill in the Senate Monday.

He said he had never seen 36 bills amended in one piece of legislation and claimed Government was attempting to confuse and obfuscate very critical, dangerous and far-reaching provisions in the legislation. He added the bill provides an unprecedented concentration in one office holder while undermining other office holders.

“It concentrates power in the hands of the Chief Justice while removing power from the Chief Magistrate.”

He questioned who was the author of the amendments and asked whether it was the Chief Parliamentary Counsel or the Judiciary.

He explained the bill empowered the Chief Justice to have wide discretion, and without a formal docketing system, to transfer any case form one court location to another.

“Where the Chief Justice get that power from? This could allow for forum shopping (having a legal case heard in the court thought most likely to give a favourable judgement) by the Judiciary to bring about an outcome in any case.”

He said the Opposition would not allow the Chief Justice to undermine the independence of the presiding magistrate, the right to a fair hearing or undermine the autonomy of the Chief Magistrate. He also said this could have far-reaching consequences such as political influences.

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