08 July 2013 at 09:53 BST

A Privy Council crisis?

The Privy Council is not losing its touch, says Davenport Lyons lawyer Theo Solley.

Mauritius still flying the flag Yui

One only has to walk the hallowed corridors of the new Supreme Court building in Parliament Square in the heart of London to realise the continuing importance of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.  As a court it has in recent times had to react to criticism of being out of date and surplus to requirement.

Not just modern in decor

Some jurisdictions have taken it upon themselves to address the issue and in the Caribbean this has led to the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice. In fact, Court 3 of the Supreme Court (there are only three courts) is in action throughout the year as it deals with numerous vital cases from across the globe from jurisdictions as diverse as Mauritius and the Pitcairn Islands.The court itself is remarkably modern and not only in its decor. The Judicial Rules that govern it may date back to 2009 but in sharing its court with the Supreme Court it has also now adopted many of its administrative functions and thus placed itself firmly in the 21st Century.
A Caribbean substitute?

One alternative, established in 2001, has been the Caribbean Court of Justice.Based in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, it is too simple to credit the creation of the CCJ with the regional disenfranchisement of the Privy Council. The CCJ exists in its own right, serving a critical role for those jurisdictions that adhere to it. As of 2011, Barbados, Belize, and Guyana have replaced the Privy Council’s appellate jurisdiction with that of the CCJ. Quite a few other Caribbean countries have yet to follow suit despite having signed the agreement establishing the CCJ back in 2001.

The cream of the English Judiciary

Furthermore the court has constantly updated its panel of Judges with the cream of the English Judiciary. Who can forget the commotion surrounding the appointment of Lord Sumption, leapfrogging an appointment in the High Court and Court of Appeal and heading straight for the Sir Peter Blake designed carpeted courtroom of the Privy Council. Two more recent additions, Lord Hughes and Lord Toulson, appointed in April this year, both came via the more traditional route and with the associated pedigree. There can be no doubt that their role and that of all the Judges in the Privy Council is a vital one, and one which they all take extremely seriously under the leadership of Lord Neuberger.

Still relevant

Having recently discussed the importance of the Privy Council with Duncan Bagshaw of the LCIA MIAC Arbitration Centre in Mauritius, it seems that it still retains an important place for those who choose to adopt it as their final court of appeal. In Mauritius, for example, the 2008 International Arbitration Act provides a direct and automatic right of appeal to the Privy Council from decisions of the Supreme Court in matters of arbitration.
A steady stream of appeals and applications continue to be filed at the Judicial Committee office in London and there is no sign of the Privy Council losing its touch. In fact, it continues to go from strength to strength providing a crucial judicial service to numerous jurisdictions around the world.



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