By Latrishka Thomas
The tenure of Justice Iain Morley as a High Court judge in Antigua and Barbuda has come to an end as the Judge has been reassigned to St. Kitts and Nevis.
In recognition of his contribution to the local criminal justice system over the past four years, the Judiciary held a virtual send off for the well-learned barrister on Monday.
Justice Ann-Marie Smith, who recently joined the High Court bench in Antigua as a criminal Judge replacing Justice Stanley John, was the first to thank Justice Morley for his service.
She noted that upon her arrival to Antigua, “Justice Morley indicated to me that it was imperative and we visit the Her Majesty’s Prison, affectionately known as ‘1735.’
“The thinking behind the visit was that we must be aware of the conditions of the place where we are sending persons to, which also illustrated the caring side of the personality of Justice Morley,” she remarked.
Justice Smith reminded the court of the 2015 case of the Queen vs Steve Urlings Jr where Justice Morley reduced his murder sentence from 40 years to 30 years due to the conditions of the prison.
Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin, celebrated the judge for the “holistic view of the criminal justice system” which he brought to the twin island.
“He examined different aspects of the criminal jurisdiction and researched vigorously the plight and conditions of inmates and residents both at Her Majesty’s Prison and the Clarevue Hospital. He took steps to remedy situations in both institutions,” Benjamin reflected.
“Justice was not delayed under his watch!” the Attorney General exclaimed as he informed those present that Justice Morley ensured the quick disposal of a case that was lost in the system for 13 years involving a patient at the country’s lone psychiatric facility.
Benjamin also revealed that thanks to the Irish legal luminary – who has practiced law in England since 1983 – there has been a significant reduction in the backlog of criminal cases.
“He was instrumental in reducing the backlog which would have existed when he took up office in Antigua and Barbuda. He utilised very effectively a tool of case management to ensure that matters were made ready for hearing.
“He and Justice Stanley John out of Trinidad deserve large credit for the reduction in the backlog of cases in the criminal court and also a reduction in the prison population caused by his efforts. That population was reduced significantly,” Benjamin stated.
Director of Public Prosecution, Anthony Armstrong, also commended the established advocacy teacher saying: “You revitalised the case management system…until it became a living, breathing, part of your court.”
He also saluted Justice Morley for being the first judge of the Sexual Offenses Model Court in Antigua and Barbuda and for “put[ting] a great deal of work into its establishment” just as he did as co-chair of the Sentencing Advisory Committee who established the recent Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Sentencing Guidelines.
Even more laudable, Armstrong stated: “One of your legacies will be the bail form for indigent and unrepresented prisoners which assists and will continue to assist prisoners in years to come”.
Several other legal practitioners to include, the President of the Bar Association Lenworth Johnson and attorneys Adlai Smith, Lawrence Daniels, Andrew O’kola and Wendel Robinson, had high praise for the outgoing judge.
Robinson stated that having only been practicing as a private lawyer for a year, after spending 33 years in the police force, “it was good, and it was a blessing in disguise…when I had all the occasions to appear before Your Lordship and so for that, I personally say thank you.”
He added that despite criticisms and concerns, Justice Morley will be etched in the history of the criminal justice system in Antigua.
For example, Robinson revealed that “within the last two weeks, two persons who are inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison got bail by using that indigent form in the nick of time when, as we know now, there are persons who are prisoners, as well as remandees, as well as prison officers who are infected with the Covid -19 disease.”
Justice Morley, who is also the author of bestselling book The Devil’s Advocate then thanked all who made his journey as a criminal judge in Antigua and Barbuda a success.
He, however, offered several recommendations to the legal authorities.
“We can do better than 1735. There must come a time when the conditions of incarceration are improved. It is manageable for an international destination loved throughout the world. We can have a better circumstance than the prison,” he stated passionately.
“Keep your eye on Clarevue,” he continued, positing that “people who are mentally ill are not automatically dangerous. They are very often simply misunderstood and frustrated personalities who have limitations and challenges, but they should not be left behind.”
He also called on the Bar Association to conduct Continued Professional Development (CPD) training “so that everybody marches in step and keeps up to speed with those things that are taking place legally”.
Furthermore, he asked the Attorney General “to give thought to the creation of a legal aide farm for appropriate cases, particularly where you are dealing with sexual offenses and a block on cross examination of complainants”.
“I would encourage that every member of the profession does one criminal case a year as a pro bono contribution,” Justice Morley pleaded.
His successor is Justice Colin Williams of St Vincent and the Grenadines.