Justice Frederick Bruce-Lyle.
Justice Frederick Bruce-Lyle.

Retired High Court judge Justice Frederick Bruce-Lyle died on Thursday in Trinidad and Tobago, shortly after being airlifted there for medical attention.

He was 62.

In a tribute on Friday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves described as “a dear friend” the Ghana-born jurist who married a Vincentian woman and attained Vincentian citizenship

The circumstances surrounding the death of the retired judge has not been made public, but his passing came just over a year after his retirement, which came in the wake of an incident in which he fainted at a police passing out parade in March 2014.

His retirement took effect Feb.17, 2015, after 249 days of vacation leave.

Bruce-Lyle chose to retire in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which he made his new home after marrying a Vincentian woman and acquiring citizenship through naturalization.

In a call to the Shake-up radio programme from Italy on Friday, Gonsalves said Bruce-Lyle was a decent man.

“He came to our country, worked as a magistrate, then a judge, became a citizen through marriage. He came from a distinguished legal family in Africa. His father was a judge and he (Frederick) worked in Belize and Antigua and the BVI (British Virgin Islands),” said Gonsalves, who is in Europe on official business.

A Wikipedia page dedicated to Bruce-Lyle said he is the second son of Ghana’s Supreme Court judge and Chief Justice of Zambia, William Bruce-Lyle, and the grandson of Sir Leslie McCarthy, who was also a judge.

“He was a fair man, a decent man, a good man in every way and I am really, really so shocked at his death,” said Gonsalves, a lawyer, adding that he was shaken up by the news.

He said he spoke to the judge about three weeks ago via phone.

“It’s a painful thing,” the Prime Minister said.

He said the jurist has touched the lives of many people.

“Bruce-Lyle, as magistrate and judge, was always very fair and learnt in the law,” he said, adding that he has lost a good friend and it’s painful.

Gonsalves also described the former judge as an African nationalist who became a Caribbean nationalist.

“He had consented after his retirement to serve on the Caribbean Marijuana Commission and then, of course, he serve on the Income Tax Appeal commissioners. I’m just shocked and so saddened. Very, very difficult time for me,” Gonsalves said.

Bruce-Lyle was the subject of some controversy during the last months of his life, and especially in the lead up to the December 2015 general elections.

Some persons, mostly supporters of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) and some of its activist criticised him for some of his public comments on politics in SVG.

In one call to the pro-government Shake-up radio programme, Bruce-Lyle suggested that some teachers where ungrateful in pressing the government for a salary increase, the first since 2011.

He also said in one of his call to the programme that he would rip the pants off pro-NDP activist, Margaret London.

London, who was hosting the NDP’s “New Times” on NICE Radio when news of Bruce-Lyle’s death broke, played a song in tribute to him.

Bruce-Lyle’s comments on radio also suggested a certain lack of understanding of politics in SVG, in light of his comments on Boom FM that he didn’t know that Shake-up was a pro-Unity Labour Party programme.

In the incident in March 2014, the keen eyes of veteran physician Dr. Cecil Cyrus and his wife Kathrine detected that something didn’t look quite right with Bruce-Lyle from where they sat at the police passing out parade.

“My wife and I thought that he was sleeping for quite a while,” Cyrus a celebrated retired surgeon, told iWitness News then.

“… something didn’t look right, until he collapsed,” he told, I-Witness News in 2014, adding that his services were quickly requested and his wife rushed over to find that the judge “felt cold and clammy, wasn’t breathing and with no detectable pulse”.

Cyrus said he felt convinced that the judge was suffering from a case of hypoglycemia –a condition when the sugar in the blood falls too low — but couldn’t be sure.

Bruce-Lyle was a High Court judge in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court from 2000 to 2012, and acted as a court of appeal judge with the

Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court from

February 2007 to June 2010.

According to the Wikipedia page, he was educated at Mfantsipim School, Cape-Coast, and the University of Ghana, where he attained a Bachelor of Laws degree.

From 1979 to 1984, Bruce-Lyle was a State advocate in Zambia, before moving to the Caribbean where he served as a magistrate in Belize (1984–89); SVG (1989–93); the British Virgin Islands (1993–97); and Antigua and Barbuda (1997–99).

In 1999, Bruce-Lyle was appointed by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission of the Caribbean Community as a High Court Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court based in SVG.

In 2013, Bruce-Lyle became the longest serving High Court Judge.

Reflecting on his 36 years in the legal profession, Bruce-Lyle told The Vincentian newspaper in March 2015: “There were good times and bad times, but overall, I have enjoyed my career. There was overall camaraderie with my colleagues on the bench, quite a few of whom have gone to the great beyond.”

Bruce-Lyle is survived by his widow, Euchrista St Hilaire Bruce-Lyle and their two, adult daughters.

 

 

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3 replies on “With death of Justice Bruce-Lyle, SVG has lost ‘a decent man’”

  1. C. ben-David says:

    Listening to some of this guy’s fatuous remarks from the bench, I always considered him a bombastic crank.

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