During the 13 November House of Assembly sitting Premier and Minister for Finance, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith announced that the Territory’s Commercial Court which was relocated to St Lucia after hurricane Irma will be moving back to the BVI in January 2018.
Hon. Smith during the questions and answers segment disclosed that the facility initially suffered damages during the 7 August flood. During that disaster it was stated that the ground floor of the court was damaged.
As it relates to bringing the Court back, Hon. Smith told the House: “Plans were already in place to conduct necessary renovations to the premises prior to hurricane Irma. We have now obtained estimates for the remedial works to be carried out at the Court and are working toward having repairs completed by the end of the year.”
It was also noted that the Court building is uninsured, and that the repairs will have to be paid for out of pocket.
The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court announced that the Judges of the Commercial Division began hearing matters in Saint Lucia on Monday 25 September at a building in Castries which is being deemed a Court by order of the Chief Justice for the sitting of the Commercial Division of the Court of the Virgin Islands.
Since September urgent applications for hearings at the Commercial Court had to be routed electronically to the Court’s Headquarters in Castries. Similarly legal practitioners were urged to electronically file their matters with the Court.
On 13 October BVI Finance announced that over 100 matters were heard by the Commercial Court following Hurricane Irma. In fact BVI Finance commented that the uninterrupted functioning of the Court is a testament that the facility can operate virtually unimpeded.
In explaining the transition following hurricane Irma BVI Finance announced that the Court term commenced formally on 18 September thanks to the assistance of local BVI practitioners, BVI Finance, the Government and Eastern Caribbean Court officials.
It was reported that three Judges are sitting in St. Lucia dealing solely with commercial matters, and cases are being heard and dealt with expeditiously. It was also mentioned that BVI Finance coordinated with industry stakeholders to assist in the drafting of a new practice direction to provide for logistical and procedural issues related to the temporary relocation.
It was stressed that the change in location has had no effect on hearings which have been held “live” as well as by phone and video-link, with almost no disruption of lists and responsive access to judges for new and urgent matters.