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Mould in the area of the jury benches in High Court No. 1, in Kingstown.
Mould in the area of the jury benches in High Court No. 1, in Kingstown.
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A lawyer has noted that the High Court continues to sit on the ground floor of a 200-year-old, woodlice-infested building while the Parliament, which met on the upper floor has been moved to a new purpose-built location.

“I have said it already. I am wearing two shoes in this woodlice-infested court.  The jury … sits down on that tough board since King George was 1, inhaling that mould … That is not good for your health. The air conditioner wants to give them a bath while our friends have made a mass exodus to greener pastures. Where is the priority?” Grant Connell said at the closing of the assizes.

He was speaking at High Court No. 1, in Kingstown, which was presided over by Justices Brian Cottle and Rickie Burnett.

The court sits in a building in which vegetation is beginning to grow and the jury sits next to a mouldy wall.

During the last sitting, a trial was interrupted briefly as jurors shifted around to avoid being wet by pouring rain.

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In July, lawmakers began sitting at a temporary parliament building, constructed for that purpose, in Calliaqua, having vacated the same building in which the High Court continues to sit.

Connell noted that Justice Cottle had pointed out that lawyers are the conscience of the society.

The counsel said that contrary to popular belief, lawyers have consciences.  

“And when the conscience pricks you, you have to talk and that’s why I talk.”

He said that 15 years ago, he appeared before Justice Cottle, who was then a master, at the Coreas Building.

Connell said people like to say that judges like to keep eye contact.

“But keeping eye contact is one thing. Keeping breath contact is a different thing,” he said, adding that the civil court is about 18×18 feet “… with three litigants, three lawyers, literally breathing down the judge’s – the judge is right there. And the way some lawyers behave in these courts, that is a security risk”.

Connell said he had been hearing a hall of justice promised for a long time and that it is supposed to be located along Murray’s Road.

He said the present area highlighted for the hall of justice is in a bit of a quagmire because of payment to Marcus De Freitas, whose property was the subject of compulsory acquisition by the government, which is yet to pay him for it almost two decades later.

Connell said there is a property next door, owned by the National Insurance Services, which he knows of that is about the same size as De Freitas’.

“Once upon a time, holy mass used to be held there and cement dust used to coat the senior citizens’ plates and that may have contributed to their eventual death,” said Connell, an Anglican.  

“A good man stopped all that and that is why I ask the good man to revisit the specific area seeing that all the lawyers and judges are suffering in these environments.”

The lawyer thanked the jury saying they did “a pretty good job. They usually get it right.”

He asked about a review of their stipend, which “has been like that since 1925”.

The lawyer also spoke about the condition of the jury room and the spaces for the court staff.

“Not even a restroom; not even a first aid kit,” Connell said.