Years after it was promised by the GSD Government and decades after the Howard Reform League criticised Gibraltar's Prison (dungeon?) at Moorish Castle, at what seems a reasonable cost (£7,000,000 as measured against the £50,000,000 being spent on the new airport terminal), Gibraltar's new Prison has been inaugurated. But credit where it is due the GSD has provided Gibraltar with a prison facility of which it can be proud. In addition it has agreed to increase the number of Prison Officers. Also the infrastructure has been built to train and rehabilitate inmates. All for the good.
It is great to note that the Hon Daniel Feetham MP, Justice Minister, has been credited for overseeing the construction of the Prison, although he did not inaugurate it. The Justice Minister has also achieved much in his Ministry generally and is striving to do more. He deserves encouragement and congratulations. He is reviewing and modernising the criminal legal system and procedures. Although all the legislation was ready some long time ago, it has yet to see the light of day. He is also modernising the laws relating to prisons, treatment of prisoners and suchlike, but these were ready some time ago also. I wonder why and where these are held up?
Thankfully, and at long last, a new court facility is being built and the old court facilities are being modernised. Excellent news and good for the GSD Government and its Justice Minister. One sad note, the majestic staircase that has graced the Supreme Court Building gets demolished next week. Is this really necessary and all for the installation of a lift? I am sure that architects and engineers could be innovative and find a different location for a lift, thus leaving the majestic staircase standing. Go on Danny give it a go. You can do better than destroy a historical feature and one of beauty.
The Justice Minister has also been instrumental in engaging an additional judge to deal with family and divorce matters. Although this has alleviated the court system some measure, the reality is that in the past in the field of criminal trials, commercial disputes and also more general litigation some delay has been experienced. Massive efforts and great strides are being made by the judiciary to deal with matters before the courts but the reality is that there is an ever increasing amount of litigation much of which is increasingly complex.
Perhaps, consideration might be given to engaging a full time Master to deal with procedural and interlocutory applications, thus alleviating the enormous workloads of the Chief Justice and Puisne Judge. All of this also places a great deal of pressure and increased workloads on the shoulders of the Court Registry staff. Like for the Prison Service, could the Government not resource this department with more personnel, providing new members with training in the UK?
A finance centre cannot grow and Gibraltar cannot prosper from its growth without a smooth and efficient dispute resolution service provided by its Courts of Law. The judiciary and court staff are doing a sterling job but with a little more resourcing the improvement would be exponential.