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Council of Prosecutors may ease DPP’s ‘backlog’
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has expressed some valid concerns about the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) 2011 Act that was recently proclaimed in relation to a matter that has been going on for a long time. The Office holder said on September 10, 2012 to media personnel that he was “gravely concerned” and was considering his options as it relates to the Piarco prosecutions. This is the approach that should be adopted with all criminal matters especially those in the public domain and that have great public interest.
The issue of Constitutional reform must take centre stage now as we must revisit that Act. While independent office holders must be protected from the political directorate and interference, there must be proper and transparent checks and balances for these office holders as well.
One such office holder appointed by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission is the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions. There still looms the debate on the inviolability of the DPP with respect to the law. Under our current constitutional arrangements, since the DPP is the sole arbiter on the matter of prosecution, it would appear that the office holder has the power not to prosecute himself in any circumstance whatsoever, making him virtually above the law—an anomaly that is very difficult to digest in such a thriving and progressive democracy.
According to how the law and processes work, the police investigate and then give their findings to the DPP who will consider whether charges can be laid so then they may arrest. The Office of DPP is the only office that has the sole purview and remit for criminal matters and proceedings. The issue of prosecution and non-prosecution has been the subject of concern by many in the public domain given a range of variables as to what was the impetus or lack thereof for moving with alacrity or not, in several circumstances.
The television personality and Crime Watch host was arrested on Thursday 19 April, 2012, stemming from the broadcasts on the show on October 25 and 26, 2011, during which the alleged rape of a mentally challenged teenage was allegedly aired. The Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago thereafter, wrote the Director of Public Prosecutions asking him to investigate whether the video clips depicted the alleged rape, were in breach of the Sexual Offences Act.
The supposition is that the Director of Public Prosecutions advised that charges can be laid under Section 32(2) of the Sexual Offences Act as the law states that: “A person who publishes or broadcasts any matter contrary to subsection 1 is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine and imprisonment for 5 years. The Sexual Offences Act also prohibits the broadcast or publication of the identity of any victim of a sex crime.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has done his job, it would seem, in this case. In other matters of public concern and where the public has high interest, it is a bit concerning as to the status of the following: On June 7, 2010, the Integrity Commission made a report to the DPP under Section 31 of the Integrity in Public Life Act for 2 senior cabinet ministers under the former administration who had failed without reasonable justification to fulfill their duties under the Integrity in Public Life Act.
The Maha Sabha radio license issue has been referred to the DPP nearly 26 months (over 2 years) now for action and we are told the current officer holder is still engaging advice of external counsel which is private and confidential. The Maha Sabha sought legal recourse all the way to the highest appellate court, the Privy Council and won. The Law Lords Stated: “There was conspicuous failure to deal with the SDMS application over 3 years. There was unexplained and unjustified discrimination in favour of another applicant, Citadel.”
When people were arrested under the Anti-Gang Legislation, the law is very clear in making provisions for people suspected to be incarcerated for 120 days without bail. This would allow law enforcement officials to do their investigative work and accumulating of evidence. THE DPP moved with speed to vindicate these individuals. Has the head of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission asked about the other matters before this looming for nearly two years?
Back in June 2012, the protesters who were blocking the entrance to the Parvati Girls’ Hindu College in Debe by sitting down at the entrance to school which is the property of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha and only physically removed by law enforcement agents—the police, was cause for much concern.
The women who are members of the Highway Re-route Movement it appears were guilty of (1) obstructing a public place; (2) causing a commotion; (3) causing a public disturbance; (4) disturbing the peace. It is quite strange why the Director of Public Prosecutions did not instruct the police to lay charges as they were not on public ground where they sat and also guilty of several offences.
The protesters were viewed on television being hurled away by police officers and questions remain why didn’t the DPP do anything in terms of instructing the police to lay charges. We may be in need of Constitutional reform for there to be some kind of panel to supervise and monitor the day-to-day work of independent office holders like the DPP.
Does the head of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission or his designee monitor the day-to-day work of the DPP and know the chronological order of cases and matters sent to the office holder and mandated to give reports to the JLSC on the progress of matters? Who or what reporting structure is in place to ensure that even independent officer holders’ actions are transparent and above-board?
It cannot only be the court of public opinion which evaluates someone with such autonomy and powers. Why not create a Council of Prosecutors similar to some countries such as Serbia, Portugal, Moldova so that we do not have to depend on the decision of only one person?
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