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Commercial Court judge sworn in

by Sunday Express
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Tefo TefoJUSTICE John David Lyons, left, takes oath

MASERU — Justice John David Lyons, an Australian national, was on Thursday sworn in as acting judge of the newly established Lesotho Commercial Court.
Justice Lyons took his oath before Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla.
He begins his two-year tenure when the High Court opens its first session tomorrow.
Justice Lehohla told guests at the swearing-in ceremony that Justice Lyons’s appointment was recommended by the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth — a loose grouping of mainly former British colonies — will pay his salary and accommodation expenses for the duration of his two-year contract, according to Justice Lehohla.
Until its establishment, commercial crimes were part of the normal High Court roll of cases.
“He is coming here as a specialist after being identified as the best candidate to head our Commercial Court by the Commonwealth,” Justice Lehohla said.
Justice Lehohla said Lesotho had to recruit outside the country after failing to find a suitable candidate locally. 
“We tried to look for a judge from within, but it appeared there was no commercial specialist on our bench,” he said.
“Justice John David Lyons has vast experience in handling commercial crimes, after having worked in the Fiji and Bahamas courts as a specialist.”
Justice Lehohla said after the expiry of his two-year term, Justice Lyons’s fate would be decided by the government.
“If the country still needs his services at the expiry of his two-year contract, the government would then have to cater for his remuneration and accommodation,” he said.
Justice Lyons is expected to groom his successor during his tenure.
“He is expected to be training our people during this time, so that when his contract expires a local judge can take over,” Justice Lehohla said.
He said the establishment of the court is expected to dispose of commercial cases expeditiously.
“Businesspeople and investors want their cases dealt with timeously,” the chief justice said.
“They would want to move on with their businesses without wasting too much time waiting for cases to be finalised.”
Meanwhile, the Law Society of Lesotho has welcomed the appointment of Justice Lyons as head of the Commercial Court.
Law Society president Advocate Zwelakhe Mda on Friday told the Sunday Express: “I think it is a good development because the judge has been recommended by the Commonwealth to set up something which never existed here before.
“He is not going to deal with ordinary cases.”
Mda said Justice Lyons’s appointment was not a unilateral decision made at the expense of local judges.
“This is totally different from our earlier concern, whereby the chief justice had asked the Commonwealth to assist in bringing more judges to address the backlog of cases in our courts,” he said.
“We dismissed that proposal last year because the backlog of cases in our courts is just a question of poor administration.”
Deputy High Court registrar Lesitsi Mokeke, meanwhile, said the swearing in of Justice Lyons would see the refurbishment of the old High Court building next to the Maseru Magistrates’ court in the capital.
The Commercial Court would then be expected to operate from that building.
The complex was burned down during the political riots which rocked Lesotho in the aftermath of the disputed general election in 1998.

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