A call was made yesterday for the Government to abort plans to repeal Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011. It came from Independent senator Elton Prescott during his contribution to the Senate debate on the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) (Amendment) Bill 2012. He said, “Don’t repeal Section 34.” This forced Senate Vice-President Lyndira Oudit, at the scheduled 4.30 tea break, to suspend for an extended one hour for consultation among senators to persuade them to support the amendment bill yesterday. The sitting resumed at 5.30 pm. At the tea break, Attorney Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, who presented the bill for debate in the Upper House yesterday, was among the first to go to the Independent senators at the tea break to consult with them.
Earlier, Prescott began his contribution saying he was “not in favour of repealing” Section 34. He said he maintained the position that the law was good and laudible. He said the bill was approved to abolish preliminary inquiries and significantly reduce the backlog of cases in the judiciary. “The repeal is not going to get us where we want to go,” Prescott told legislators. He said any move to ensure equity and justice and revolutionary change in the justice system “will be thwarted by the repeal of Section 34.” Prescott said Section 34 would have been “an effective piece of medication to deal with the disease we face.” He said the recently proclaimed act remained in effect. He said any move to repeal the act will result in legal challenges as far as the Privy Council. He said the issue of the separation of powers would arise if the act was repealed. He said he was recommending that “you simply confirm the judge’s power to apply discretionary principle when an application is made and to say I am not satisfied that the applicant is deserving of having this case discharged.”
Prescott said: “We are not proceeding along the lines of good government by seeking to repeal Section 34 and that is the view I will like to put forward here today.” He said there were many people who were “racing to the court to take advantage of Section 34 and this repeal is meant to blunt their efforts, it is meant to stop them in their tracks, it is meant to take away the right which Section 34 gave to them.” He said if legislation was created “to blunt the rights of an individual, given to him by a piece of legislation, well it’s wrong.” Prescott, a Senior Counsel, said the Senate was “embarking on a path that will lead to us, very likely, being rediculed in the courts here and abroad because it is abhorrent. “It cannot be that we set out to say, of those persons who have already sought to take advantage of the benefit of Section 34 provides, that we are going to blunt their effort,” he said.
In contrast to what Ramlogan said earlier, Prescott said the Parliament could seek to nullify pending legal challenges being mounted by citizens. He said in judicial circles the move to repeal the act has been described as “abhorrent and repugnant.” The act provided for charges to be dismissed if the case was not started within a ten-year period. Prescott said the law should be amended to allow a judge to “be given the power to discount from the counting of the ten-year period, such period that he thinks were spent by an applicant in playing games because he could afford to do it.” He said Section 34 should be kept with the inclusion of such changes, adding that the Parliament will emerge looking better as a result. Prescott said Parliament should establish a special select committee to review the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act.