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Privy Council hears appeal in financial relief case which has been running for sixteen years

Judge took four years to deliver judgment

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has given judgment in an appeal from the Court of Appeal in Trinidad and Tobago.

In Ramnarine v Ramnarine [2013] UKPC 27an ex-wife appealed against an order made by the Court of Appeal of Trinidad and Tobago in proceedings for financial relief between her and her ex-husband following divorce.

The wife commenced her claim for financial relief in 1997 and it was heard in 2001. Four years passed between the date of the conclusion of the substantive hearing and the judge's judgment, which he delivered orally. A further year and ten months passed before the issue of a written judgment and notes of evidence. The wife's appeal against that judgment was heard two years and three months later. The period between the issue of the wife's notice of appeal to the Board and the hearing before the Board  was three years and two months, of which the first five months were spent waiting for the written amplification of the Court of Appeal's judgment and the next 21 months were devoted to the ventilation of issues relating to the husband's claim for substantial security for his costs of the further appeal.

Counsel for the wife contended that this delay, which the Board believed to be of a length beyond its previous experience, led the judge into fatal error and, in particular, led him to fail to perform his duty under the relevant statute, which closely follows the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act 1970.

Lord Wilson, giving the judgment of the Board, said that the Board recognised the constraints under which judges at first instance in Trinidad and Tobago laboured in 2004 but continued:

"Nevertheless, after all reasonable allowances are made, the Board concludes that the delay of four years was entirely unacceptable and must never be allowed to happen again."

However, he concluded that "gross though was the judge's delay in its delivery, the Board fails to find significant consequential error in the reasoning of his judgment."

Consequently the appeal was dismissed.