Government’s move to shift the retirement age for judges from 65 to 70 years has raised an Opposition query about judges’ mental faculties at that age.
The concern was raised by UNC MP Vidya Guyadeen-Gopeesingh in Parliament on Wednesday after Attorney General Faris Al- Rawi piloted a bill to increase judges’ retirement age to 70.
Guyadeen-Gopeesingh said while the UNC had no problem with this, one had to understand judges’ mental capacity and look at their physiological state also. “Things we can do at age 40, we can’t do at 70,” she said, adding T&T needs younger judges who are “bright and articulate.”
Al-Rawi, who said the bill sought to address judicial resources, added that crime was a very large—if not the largest- issue in T&T and had been for decades.
He said after T&T judges retired at 65, many worked in other Caribbean countries. He said UNC MP Ganga Singh was the only one “who showed courage “ and broke UNC ranks to support Government’s recent move to increase judicial pensions.
Al- Rawi also noted Government would be moving civil courts from the Hall of Justice to the Waterfront Complex within weeks, and other courts would be opened also.
He also said increasing the retirement age in the Defence Force was under consideration.
But on extending judges’ retirement age to 70, Guyadeen-Gopeesingh— an attorney— expressed concern about people being unable to hear or see.
She cited Presbycusis—loss of hearing that gradually occurs in most individuals as they age. She said the retirement age extension to 70 may require having judges assessed by a group of doctors. Noting the some trials are done by judge alone, she said these may a challenge for litigant and judge if the latter’s mental faculties are in question.
Guyadeen-Gopeesingh asked if the AG had asked judges if they want to work for five more years to 70 “and forgo family time.”
She said many judges are frustrated at issues in the system and in some cases having to buy paper for their office out of their own funds.
She asked about the impact of a new retirement age on judges seeking upward mobility in the system.
She also questioned how Government could place courts at the Waterfront where she said “columns are all zig zag” as opposed to the Hall of Justice which has a central column.
Guyadeen- Gopeesingh said a witness she was recently questioning in court told her it had too “too many pos-es (posts)” in the room.”
Reporter: Gail Alexander