In unprecedented step, Chief Justice wades into row over fourth judge

In unprecedented step, Chief Justice wades into row over fourth judge

The Chief Justice of Gibraltar, Anthony Dudley, has called on the Gibraltar Government to reconsider its decision not to continue funding a fourth judge for the Rock’s Supreme Court.

Mr Justice Dudley made the plea in an unprecedented statement amid controversy over the employment of Puisne Judge Adrian Jack, whose fixed three-year contract expired on August 10.

Mr Jack said he had been given a “reasonable expectation” that his contract would be renewed but the Gibraltar Government has withdrawn funding for the post.

The government’s decision was this week criticised by the GSD, which expressed concern that it could leave Gibraltar’s court’s under-resourced.

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But last night the Gibraltar Government dismissed those concerns, insisting that Mr Jack’s appointment had been on a temporary basis to deal with a backlog of civil work in line with a policy established by the GSD itself.

No.6 Convent Place said it would keep the court’s workload under constant review and would again consider appointing a fourth judge in the future if required.

These were the latest exchanges in a public row that has placed a rare spotlight on the judiciary and the mechanisms used to appoint judges.

In his statement yesterday, Mr Justice Dudley cautioned that Mr Jack’s appointment and the latest developments had to be seen in a wider context.

The Chief Justice said Mr Jack had been appointed on a short-term basis to provide additional support in handling civil and commercial cases, in the same way that another UK judge – Barrington Black – had previously been appointed to deal with a backlog of criminal cases.

Since Mr Jack’s appointment in 2014, the Chief Justice said, the number of civil cases had dropped from 195 in 2014 to 100 in 2016 and 85 in the year to date.

Even so, Mr Justice Dudley said he believed there was reason to retain a complement of three puisne judges working alongside the Chief Justice – meaning four Supreme Court judges in total.

“The workload of the court cannot be measured exclusively by relying upon statistics but it is also dependent upon the complexity of matters coming before the courts,” Mr Justice Dudley said.

“Because we are demand led it is also useful to retain an element of flexibility which the extra judicial resource provides.”

“Therefore, whilst I understand the decision not to fund the post of a third puisne judge at this stage, it is one that I will seek to persuade Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar to reconsider.”
This was the first public intervention by Mr Justice Dudley since his appointment as acting Chief Justice in 2007 after the suspension of his predecessor in the post, Derek Schofield.

For close observers of the legal profession, there was no doubt that the Chief Justice was making the statement reluctantly.

Mr Justice Dudley, who was appointed on a permanent basis in 2010, said he believed judges “…ought to avoid engaging publicly on issues which may be perceived as having a political dimension even when these, albeit obliquely, touch upon the administration of justice.”

But the issues surrounding Mr Jack’s departure had generated numerous headlines this week after he gave an extensive interview to GBC expressing disappointment that the government had decided not to continue funding a fourth judge.

The issues raised by Mr Jack’s comments related exclusively to the administration of justice, leading the Chief Justice to “exceptionally” make his statement yesterday.

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