MASERU — Justice John Lyons’ term as judge of the Commercial Court has been extended by another year.
Speaking at the official opening of the 2012 session of the High Court Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla said Justice Lyons’ term was extended effective last month.
Justice Lyons was hired in the Commercial Court two years ago to help dispose of commercial cases.
Justice Lehohla said the extension followed an agreement between Justice Lyons, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the government of Lesotho.
The judge was seconded to Lesotho by the Commonwealth Secretariat that will continue to pay for his accommodation and salary.
Justice Lehohla also criticised recent media reports that revealed that Justice Lyons, an Australian national, had a controversial past while serving as a judge in the The Bahamas.
The Lesotho Times last month published a story saying Justice Lyons had a controversial stint while serving on the Bahamas Supreme Court bench four years ago.
The paper said the Australian judge left The Bahamas after a contentious decision he had made in a civil case before him in 2007.
The case involved two wealthy brothers who were fighting over US$100 million (M760 million).
Justice Lehohla said it was “most disconcerting that some news media fed with misbegotten information garnered from a source of nondescript provenance should seek to malign the screening process that the Commonwealth employed to justify its recommendation for his candidacy and moral rectitude which were to be considered as factors making him suitable to render service on Lesotho’s higher bench”.
The Lesotho Times however never sought to “malign the screening process that the Commonwealth employed”.
The newspaper only highlighted that the judge had a controversial past based on information that was in a credible newspaper.
The allegations against Justice Lyons were also based on a written judgment.
Justice Lehohla also noted that the introduction of mediation in the court system had helped slash the huge backlog of cases in the High Court.
He said mediation seeks to reduce the backlog of cases in the courts by enabling litigants to access justice with less litigation costs.
He said in just five months 30 out of 136 cases that were registered had been completed, “13 settled, three partially settled and 11 failed”.
Justice Lehohla said this amounted to a 22 percent disposal rate.
He said the “success achieved in the circumstances so far inspires confidence that with continued education and understanding of this new concept by litigants and the legal fraternity the disposal rate is on a highway to inevitable improvement on an unmistakably high scale”.
“Statistical data shows that judges, legal practitioners and litigants have started embracing the notion of mediation in earnest by the number of referrals to mediation and seizure of the option of early settlement it offers.”
Justice Lehohla said a new system to keep records in the High Court had contributed in completing 97 percent of the criminal applications filed since it was introduced three years ago.
“Out of 98 criminal trials filed, 26 were completed representing 27 percent.
“Out of 759 criminal applications filed 738 were completed.
“Out of 10 criminal appeals five were completed converting into a 50 percent clearance rate while out of six criminal sentences filed four were disposed of representing a 67 percent clearance rate,” Justice Lehohla said.
There was no official party after the official opening of the High Court after judges objected to the shindig.
The judges argued that it would be improper to spend money on drinks at a time when the judiciary was facing a serious cash flow crisis.
Three High Court judges, Justices Kelello Guni, ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane and John Lyons, were also not part of the procession to the High Court ground where Justice Lehohla inspected the parade.
But Justices Hlajoane and Lyons later joined the bench when Chief Justice Lehohla was delivering his speech in court.
The embattled registrar of the High Court and Court of Appeal, ‘Mathato Sekoai, was also not present when Justice Lehohla inspected the parade.
Chief Justice Lehohla was accompanied by the Deputy Registrar Lesitsi Mokeke.