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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 August, 2005, 02:44 GMT 03:44 UK
Caribbean court hears first case
Port of Spain, Trinidad
The new court is housed in the Trinidadian capital, Port of Spain
The newly created Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has begun hearing its first case.

The Trinidad-based court was created four months ago and is designed to be the final court of appeal for most of the UK's former colonies in the region.

However, only Barbados and Guyana have formally adopted the new court.

Final appeals in the two countries have traditionally been referred to the Privy Council in London, made up of members of the UK's House of Lords.

The CCJ will deal with both civil and criminal cases.

In its first case, a nine-judge panel is deciding whether or not to overturn a libel ruling from a court in Barbados.

The libel allegedly occurred when a radio station broadcast calypso songs that criticised the quality of a poultry farmer's produce.

The farmer said he had to close his farm in 1990 as a result of the criticism.

A 1998 ruling in Barbados went against the radio station and this is their last chance to overturn the verdict.

The hearing is the first of its kind for former British Caribbean colonies since the Privy Council began hearing cases in 1833.

A number of other countries are in the process of adopting the court, but have been held up both by procedural problems with approving the enabling legislation needed for membership of the CCJ.

Some opposition parties also say the judges could be brought under political influence more easily than the British law lords.

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