THE High Court has officially opened a new courtroom, Thursday.
Chief Justice Sir Albert Palmer at the opening said the courtroom 2 will primarily be used for civil hearings.
“The opening of this courtroom will restore the number of courtrooms back to four down from 5, with the closure of courtrooms 4 and 5,” Sir Albert said.
He added that completion of the conversion and refurbishment of what used to be the Trade Dispute Panel building is timely.
“……..because it occurred at a crucial point in the busy schedule of the Court in its noble endeavours to have all election petition cases completed timely before the deadline in May.
“All decisions have to be delivered not later than 20 May 2020, in some earlier, depending on the date of filing,” Sir Albert added.
This narrow window of time imposed by Parliament when it passed the new Electoral Act 2018 into law, gives little room for the High Court to maneuver other than to ensure that the legislative mandate is complied with,” he said.
Sir Albert further commented that at this point in time, out of 24 remaining election petition cases, three are part heard and or currently being heard, nine have been completed and judgments delivered, five have been heard and awaiting judgment, and seven are waiting to be heard.
The courtroom replaces the former courtroom number 2 which was located in the east wing of the High Court building.
The former courtroom 2 has since been converted into the Transcription Unit room.
Sir Albert further added that a second reason why the timing of the opening is special because on Monday, they were down by two courtrooms with the collapse of the walkway linking both courtrooms 4 and 5.
He said it is an unfortunate setback when the weight of a large crowd waiting to get into court room 4, due to the high interest in an election petition in court room 4, was too much for the prefab metal bearers to sustain.
“The prefab materials were not constructed to accommodate a large crowd, such as that shown in that election petition.
“They were built for few members of the public and for their life span limited and should have been replaced with permanent materials.
“With eight judges in the High Court and only four courtrooms available, delays in the hearing of cases can be expected.
“This will obviously have an impact on the work output of the High Court in terms of hearings until such time as both courtrooms have been repaired.
“As well, this will be an opportunity for Courtroom 4 to be partitioned or divided into two courtrooms.
“We will need to be patient and expect delays of some 2-3 months before those courtrooms will become available again,” Sir Albert said.
Sir Albert said they hope that there will be a quicker turn around if government processes can be fast-tracked to enable them to achieve what is necessary for the building and courtrooms to be made ready.