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The Right Honourable Sir Dennis Byron, President of the Caribbean Court of Justice

During this year there have been many changes to the Court.  One bright moment in the history of the Court has been the introduction of a customized court management system Curia.  It has transformed how the CCJ operates and how Judges and administrators are able to manage the Court’s operations.  I am also pleased to say that attorneys are now able to access the CCJ and information about their cases at their convenience.  The CCJ will continue to harness technology to improve operations and to serve our stakeholders with greater efficiency.
The first edition of our monthly newsletter CCJ Matters will share information about CCJ’s electronic court management system; this month’s Registry Report is included which highlights cases that the CCJ has heard in June 2017 as well as sharing the recent judgment in the Cabral Douglas case.  This newsletter also pays tribute to the Honourable Mr. Justice Rolston Nelson who has now retired.  It was a pleasure and an honour to have served with him on the CCJ bench and I wish him well in this next phase of his life. The Court has now welcomed Mr. Justice Barrow to the bench. I wish you happy reading and I look forward to greeting you well in August’s edition.


CAJO News interviewed the Honourable Mr. Justice Rolston Nelson in light of his impending departure from the CCJ.  In a wide-ranging interview, the now retired CCJ Judge gave insight into both his life and work.  Mr. Justice Nelson was appointed a Judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice in 2005,  retired in May 2017.   Mr. Justice Nelson was the longest-serving Judge at the Court and has acted as the Court President at various times in his tenure.  
CAJO NEWS: Justice Nelson, you are the longest serving judge of the CCJ and in light of your impending retirement we are extremely grateful that you have agreed to this interview. First of all, we note that you followed a rare path to appellate adjudication. Both Sir Hugh Wooding and Rt Hon Michael de la Bastide were each plucked from private practice to the office of Chief Justice. You also went straight from private practice to being a judge of the Trinidad and Tobago Court of Appeal.  Excluding of course the two former Chief Justices, has there been any other precedent for this in Trinidad and Tobago and did you face any personal or professional challenges as a result of it?

Apart from Sir Hugh and the Rt. Hon. Michael de la Bastide, I was the first member of the Inner Bar to go to the Court of Appeal directly from the Inner Bar. No member of the Bar of Trinidad and Tobago has since gone to the Bench or direct to the Court of Appeal. Essentially in my early days in the Court of Appeal, I was the junior judge and all other members of the Court understood that I was to be given time to learn the craft by their example. The presiding judge picked the matters in which I would write the leading judgment. From that stage of apprenticeship, I graduated to writing concurring and sometimes dissenting judgments. I learned much from discussions every day with the senior judges and read extensively.



CAJO NEWS: What would you consider to be the most important attributes of an appellate court judge?

An appellate judge should first master the facts. He must then define the issues in the appeal, the applicable law and any relevant academic writing on those issues. The appellate judge must be sensitive to the limitations of the appellate judge as to findings of fact, the exercise of discretion and the doctrine of precedent. The appellate judge will always consider whether the result is just in all the circumstances.


CAJO NEWS: You served on the CCJ for over eleven years. What kind of impact has the Court in your view made on the Caribbean legal landscape?

I do not think that judges should indulge in self-congratulation about the good their courts are doing. However, I do say that the CCJ is testimony to the fact that there can and does exist a final court in the Caribbean of high quality and that a significant legal foundation has been laid


CAJO NEWS: We’re sure that you came to the CCJ with high hopes and dreams, do you think you have accomplished what you originally intended? Any cases in particular that stood out for you?

Again, as a judge of this court I would not like to identify cases, but I think the record speaks for itself both in the Appellate and Original Jurisdictions. I had no personal aspirations other than to contribute to the jurisprudence, where appropriate, and to see both the appellate and the original jurisdictions fully operational. However, the CSME project seems to be limping along and the appellate jurisdiction remains undersubscribed after eleven years.


CAJO NEWS: Throughout your long career you must have mentored other judicial officers. Was this something you enjoyed and do you see mentoring as a practice that should be institutionalized?

I did not specifically mentor other judicial officers in the sense of taking them under my wings. But I think young judges learn by example. I was conscious of mentoring only in that sense. I suppose it is possible to institutionalize mentoring but this would rely on the interaction of senior judges with new judges. I prefer a collegial atmosphere of learning and sharing.


CAJO NEWS: We note that you began your professional career as a lecturer at the Law Schools of the Council of Legal Education and that you have been teaching at the Law School for several decades. Tell us a little about this please. When did you begin? How does your love for teaching compare with your love for judging? Do you have any comments on the teaching of law today as compared with a few decades ago?

I began teaching law in 1973. I was fascinated by the challenge of clear exposition. I was also excited by the insights of students into many of the cases and grey areas of the law. I always felt my practice was part and parcel of my preparation to teach the students. When I ceased private practice, it was my experience on the Bench that informed a lot of my teaching. Certainly in the Law Schools nowadays one has to relate all teaching to a particular outcome in the training of a student for professional practice. In the old days, there was not as much emphasis on the practical process of resolving a legal dispute or attaining a legal objective.


CAJO NEWS: You have worked very hard all your life; do you think it is time to take a rest now? Are you considering full retirement? Do you have any definitive plans for retirement?

I certainly think that one may do the same thing for too long – 17 years – and one should explore different ways of contributing to society. I am still working out how that new phase is going to be fulfilled. In my new endeavours, I will be working and not simply sitting at home.




In January 2017, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) began officially using a customised court management software suite called Curia.  The court management software currently has three modules called Folio, Attaché, and Sightlines. Folio is the name for the electronic filing platform which registered participants can access using the Court’s website, Attaché is a case management system that allows the CCJ to manage court matters from the time an attorney files a case to the delivery of judgment. The system also offers a performance management toolkit for judges and administrators of the Court, called Sightlines, which provides access to data and reports which will make administration more transparent and accessible.


The software includes an electronic filing platform, also referred to as e-Filing. The transition to e-Filing, which the new court management software gives litigants and their attorneys the ability to file documents online.  This enhances access to the Court and ultimately enables greater access to justice.


The project was spearheaded by CCJ President, the Right Honourable Sir Dennis Byron and designed by Courtechs, a technology company with offices in the United States and the Caribbean. Courtechs specialises in services for the legal services sector and the judiciary. This new development is part of the CCJ’s mandate to strengthen, and accelerate, regional judicial development.


The CCJ President stated, “The CCJ regards technology as a vital tool for enhancing and increasing efficiency, for measuring performance and generally for fulfilling the mandate of the Court. By embracing modern technology, courts can become more efficient and effective in producing just and fair resolution of disputes. This will lead to increased public trust and confidence in the judicial system. This, in turn, will hasten the reduction of lawlessness and increased innovation. Both of which can contribute to economic development and social stability in the region.”


During the month of June 2017, four (4) new cases originating from Guyana (2) and Barbados (2) were filed in the Appellate Jurisdiction. In addition, a Notice of Application was filed in the case of Dean Boyce & Trustees of the BTL Employees Trust v Attorney General of Belize and Minister of Public Utilities BZCV2014/005. Reasons for Decision was delivered in this case on the 21st October 2016.


On the 6th June 2017, hearing of the Application for Special Leave to Appeal was held in the case Manjanie Dookhie, (substituted for Vedantie Dookhie, deceased) v Duncan Small and Beverly Small GYCV2017/002 which was filed on the 10th February 2017. In this case, a consent Order was granted; the matter being heard as a hearing of the Appeal.


On the 9th June 2017, two (2) Case Management Conferences were held – the consolidated case James Anthony Hyles v The Director of Public Prosecution of Guyana GYCR2016/001 and Mark Royden Williams GYCR2016/002 and the case Progresso Heights Ltd. v Pitts & Elrington and Wilfred Elrington BZCV2016/002.


At 30th June 2017, the Court had two (2) reserved judgments and 13 pending cases including four (4) new cases with no dates fixed. The remaining nine (9) pending cases were fixed for hearing between the 5th and 25th July 2017. The Court Term ends on the 31st July 2017.  The foregoing cases are shown in the tables below.


6th June 2017
Manjanie Dookhie (substituted for Vendantie Dookhie, deceased)
Duncan Small and Beverly Small
Application for Special Leave to appeal (treated as hearing of the Appeal Filed 10th Feb. 2017 Consent Order
9th June 2017
(Consolidated Appeals)
James Anthony Hyles
The Director of Public Prosecution of GuyanaMark Royden Williams
The Director of Prosecution of Guyana
Notice of Appeal Filed 25th Oct. 2017

NB: Record of Appeal Filed 15th May 2017

Trial date set for 7th July 2017
9th June 2017
Progresso Heghts Ltd
Pitts & Elrington
Wilfred Elrington
Notice of Appeal Filed 13th April 2017 Trial Date set for 21st July 2017

JUDGMENT HIGHLIGHT – Cabral Douglas v The Commonwealth of Dominica


The first Original Jurisdiction application filed by a Dominican national, Mr. Cabral Douglas, was dismissed in February 2017 by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). Mr. Cabral Douglas, an event organizer, claimed that his country, Dominica, caused a breach of his contract with Jamaican entertainer ‘Tommy Lee Sparta’, whose given name is Mr. Leroy Russell. 

Mr. Douglas, in the case, Cabral Douglas v The Commonwealth of Dominica (OA 1 of 2017), alleged that Dominica’s action also caused multiple violations of his rights under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC).  The Court ruled that he had failed to prove a breach of treaty rights which were intended to benefit him directly.  The Court emphasized that it was not possible to access the  Original Jurisdiction merely because another person’s rights under the Treaty may have been breached. Read more about the case below:

Judgment Summary