The Judiciary hosted a press conference on Monday 28 September to highlight the work undertaken over the last five years with its achievements and work that is still left to be done. This was hosted ahead of Dr. Mathilda Twomey completing her five year mandate as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
While the media’s focus was on the outgoing Chief Justice, the panel also included (from left to right) Nichole Mathurin as Head of Human Resources, Juliana Esticot as Head of Registrar, Dr. Twomey, Senior Magistrate Benjamin Vipin, Joelle Barnes from Legal Research and Assistant to the Chief Justice, and Kevin Etienne-Cummings as Head of the Library and Archives Department.
Below are the main points they discussed with the media on what has been achieved in their respective roles:
LEGAL RESEARCH & OFFICE OF CHIEF JUSTICE TWOMEY – Joelle Barnes
Achievements during the period 2015 to 2020 under the Office of the Chief Justice
During the period of time under the guidance of the Chief Justice the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) has been more firmly established and has worked hard to implement the changes and modernisations envisaged in the Strategic Plan.
The Office of the Chief Justice assists with the administrative functions of the Chief Justice and the Judiciary and is active in daily monitoring and responding to the needs of the Judiciary. Additionally, the OCJ provides support to the eight Judges, one master and six magistrates and the Registrar. We are responsible for monitoring performance and conducting periodic accounting on case completion and the achievement of the standards of the Judiciary.
During this five-year period, we have seen the following developments:
- Introduced a four-year plan to take the Judiciary from 2016 to 2020, with the key goals of reducing backlog and the cases in the system, speeding up the efficiency within the Judiciary and ensuring that it is more accessible, accountable and fit for purpose.
- Established Court Practice Directions to secure the attendance of attorneys at trials and for the case management of civil and criminal cases at Supreme Court and Magistrates’ Court levels. This has been a major success and has seen better case management, trial certainty and procedures across the judiciary.
- Reintroduced legal training for Judges and Magistrates and worked with the Southern African Chief Justices Forum (SACJF) and Judicial Institute for Africa (JIFA) for Judges and Magistrates to secure judicial skills and leadership training and training in specialist fields like Human Rights and Environmental Law and Judgment writing.
- Introduced rules for the Election Petitions, Proceeds of Crime (Civil Confiscation) Rules, finalized new rules for Pupillage and the Bar Examination. Increased the Court Fees and Costs.
- Grew the office of the Chief Justice with the recruitment of highly skilled legal researchers, a Public Relations Officer and the Library and Archiving services. Actively restructured the administration of the Judiciary – introduced the Director of HR, Director of Legal Affairs in the OCJ and the Director of Logistics and Operations.
- Adopted sentencing guidelines for offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act and heard the cases brought to the Sentence Review Tribunal under the MODA 2016. As well as better informal guidelines for sentencing across other areas of the Judiciary.
- Represented the Seychelles Judiciary at a regional and international level on bodies such as the Southern African Chief Justice’s Forum, the Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of Africa, the World Forum on Constitutional Justice, the UN Judicial Integrity Network, the Judiciaries of the Indian Ocean and others.
- Actively engaged with the Indian High Commission to secure the funding for the Magistrates Building.
- Increased the number of meetings with internal and external judiciary stakeholders to ensure better partnerships and functioning of the Judiciary.
- The establishment of a Facebook page and Judiciary website as well as key engagements with the public in interviews and on the radio were designed to debunk myths about the Judiciary and make it more approachable and known to the public.
- Oversaw the handling of complaints against Judges and attorneys, the terms of pupillage and swearing in of all pupils, and officials.
- Supported the Judicial committees established under the strategic plan, including the IT and CCASS committee (implementing the Judiciary’s case management system), supporting Seylii, supporting the Committees established to inquire into the conduct of legal practitioners and the Committee that conducts the annual Bar Examination.
- The Office of the Chief Justice has actively supported Seylii (the online publication of judicial decisions) and the teaching of law at the University of Seychelles.
MAGISTRATES COURT – Senior Magistrate Benjamin Vipin
- Accountability of every stakeholder in the judiciary both within the judiciary includes the bench, and the bar, which was by way of case management, periodic meetings, etc.
- Chief Justice being accessible to everyone, for guidance, support, redressals, etc.
- To raise the standard of advocacy by trainings, new practices and procedures, speedy disposal of matters, etc.
- Three marked areas of her contribution and upkeep apart from other areas of law, is in the field of civil law, the rights of child especially the sexual assault and the reformative approach to drug dependent, personal users under the Misuse of drugs Act. Had first-hand experience on her knowledge in civil law in the Civil Code reforms committee and also her expertise in jurisprudence, and she is an excellent teacher as well.
- On a personal note, Dr. Twomey has been an inspiration and fiercely dedicated to work and had a no nonsensical approach to work, her work speaks for herself, a person with grit and determination, but after work she brought out her creole spirit, of laughter, dance and singing.
REGISTRAR’S OFFICE – Juliana Esticot
- Reduction from 400 backlogged cases pending on 1 January 2018 to 112 cases on 31 December 2019.
- In 2019 alone, 146 backlogged cases were cleared and the average age of our pending cases has dropped across the board.
- Beginning of 2020, in the Supreme Court the average age of the cases on the Civil cause list is 389 days (just over a year), down from 499 at the beginning of 2019.
- In the Criminal division it is 328 days (less a year) down from 427 the year before. In the Magistrates Court the average age has reduced, except for several specific cases which skew the statistics, and have been identified. In the absence of those cases, the average age of criminal cases is 344 in 2019, and the average age of civil cases is 485 days.
- Reopening of Anse Royale Magistrates’ Court
- Revision of Court fees
- Some projects put on hold due to budget restraints with COVID-19
HUMAN RESOURCES – Nichole Mathurin
Human Resources as an important and valuable asset of an organization have seen transformation under the leadership of the Chief Justice. The Managers have been given opportunities with continuous learning and enhancing skills to be empowered in making decisions for their sections. The determination of the employees to deliver service efficiently and confidently remain a source of motivation. The joy and courage of a great leader enables just that.
Achievement of HR Department among others
Build the capacity of our human resources to improve on delivery
- Recruitment of more legal researchers
- New post created in line with the organization strategic goals – such as Public Relations Officer Oct 2016)
- 7 promotions in 2016
- 6 promotions 2017
- 3 promotions in 2018
- Restructuring in 2019 creates opportunity for personal growth of some staff and recruitment of new people in key position
- Organized specialized training for the staff
- We work in collaboration with ANHRD to support study at degree level
- Two basic legal training sessions for court staff to familiarize with civil and criminal process
- Legal terms and terminology for Court Interpreters and Reporters
- Various short course in IT, French and other areas
- Overseas training for a different experience
Staff welfare and wellness
- Social committee had established and coordinated different activities in the past with emphasized on our creole week and end of year gathering
- Yearly health program in collaboration with Health Care Agency, Lions of Seychelles and others (non-communicable disease screening; women’s health, dental screening etc)
- Long service award presentation
- Yearly certificate ceremony presentation – as a way of recognition to hard work and progress in learning
Better pay structure
- Motivation element
- Retain quality employees
- Attract potential candidates
LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES – Kevin Etienne-Cummings
- The library now has a space for reading and research in the Angelo Reading Room. It’s named after Professor Anthony Angelo, a New Zealander who has been helping Seychelles collect and edit its own laws since the 1980s.
- As significantly, it’s no longer just the library, but the Sauzier Law Library. It’s appropriately named after the late Chief Justice Andre Sauzier, who himself had a long and illustrious career as a lawyer, judge, and teacher.
- We’ve also started the modernizing process by setting up a library system where the public can at least see what legal resources are available online. If you go to judiciary.gov.sc, you’ll follow the links to the Andre Sauzier Law Library and you can search through our collection. There is still a way to go, but we’ve moving.
- And building those parts to the library and archives has turned up a couple gems. We’ve had to clear some rubble in the dream space for a beautiful library, and in clearing the boxes, we found constitutional cases and important historical cases for the history and culture of Seychelles. Those cases need to be kept, archived, and ideally, if we can turn the dream space into a reality, those constitutional cases should be showcased as part of the history, laws, and culture of Seychelles.
- Another part of our vision for the library is understanding that a library is already an inclusive institution. It should be open to the public to educate themselves on questions specific to our growing democracy. So it’s been a pleasure to help with the Truth, Reconciliation, and National Unity Commission with some of the information they’ve requested, which means that we’ve been able to help Seychelles as a whole heal from the wounds of the past and move towards a fuller democracy. After all, Seychelles is a young democracy, we need to educate ourselves on what we want in our future.
- Of all of us, I think I’ve known Dr. Twomey for the shortest amount of time, only since June last year. But for the short amount of time, I can say that what I’ve valued most in our professional relationship is the absolute support for the library and archives. It’s not the support of words said and forgotten from one meeting to the next, but when she’s been able to push the process forward, she has or helped find another way. Consequently, I’ve enjoyed sharing with Dr. Twomey as Chief Justice a vision of what a library and archive can do for Seychelles.