‘Two Major Weaknesses Of The Legal System’

November 30, 2018 | 0 Comments

“Bermuda has a robust court system that upholds and enforces fundamental rights” however “there are two major weaknesses of the legal system in Bermuda [and, presumably, other overseas territories]: access to justice and protection of fundamental rights, particularly for the most vulnerable.”

This is according to local lawyers Peter Sanderson and Saul Dismont, who made a submission to the British Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry in to the ‘Future of the UK Overseas Territories’.

The submission from Mr. Sanderson and Mr. Dismont said, “First, the good news. Bermuda has a robust court system that upholds and enforces fundamental rights protected by the Bermuda Constitution and the Bermuda Human Rights Act 1981.

“However, there are two major weaknesses of the legal system in Bermuda [and, presumably, other overseas territories]: access to justice and protection of fundamental rights, particularly for the most vulnerable

“There is a lack of resources available to litigants to hold the authorities accountable when it is believed they have acted unlawfully. Although Bermuda has a legal aid scheme, it is only available to those who have a disposable household income of less than $18,000 per year.

“This means that if the combined disposable income of all the occupants exceeds $18,000 per year, no one in the household will be granted legal aid, even if they are a vulnerable adult, a child, or an adult with no income

“It is the vulnerable population that are often most affected by discrimination and/or government maladministration, yet they are the least represented. They are more likely to lack the ability to initiate legal proceedings themselves, and less likely to be able to complete an application for legal aid.

“Further, the Legal Aid Office will only accept an application made by a child if it is co-signed by a parent, a guardian or a litigation guardian. And if the applicant suffers from significant mental illness an application must be signed by a parent, guardian or an intermediary, which is only appointed in criminal matters.

“In any event, the vulnerable are often not eligible for legal aid due to them being cared for by a family member, and the household income exceeding the limit.”

“Where the vulnerable are in the care of a government department or ministry, the person is wholly dependent on them to make an application for legal aid or fund legal services.”

“As children, the elderly, and those with ill mental health are not provided specific protection under the Constitution, and they are unlikely to obtain legal aid, as detailed above, their rights are considerably behind the times.”

The full submission can be read here [PDF].

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