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Dana on Administration of Justice Act: More staff needed to meet August 2 date
The eight-month time frame for the State to get its house in order to facilitate the transition of the remaining sections of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Offences) Act 2011 could become reality, if all stakeholders are given adequate staffing. According to Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal, the August 2 implementation date could be met, if preparation starts to take place.
“If they (stakeholders) start working from now and are given the necessary staffing, it could be done,” she said. Seetahal, in a telephone interview yesterday, said adequate staffing must be added to the limited resources which already existed within the judiciary. “It can be done, if given the resources,” she said.
If such resources are not given, then the implementation date will not be met. On Monday, Justice Minister Christlyn Moore issued a statement stating Cabinet had advised President George Maxwell Richards to revoke the proclamation appointing January 2, 2013, as the date for several sections of the act to come into effect.
Moore had indicated that following meetings with stakeholders inclusive of the judiciary, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Law Association, the Bar Association and the T&T Police Service, mechanisms were not in place to facilitate the act.
The sections identified were 3(2), 3(3), 4 to 31,33, 35 and Schedules 1 to 5, 7 and 8 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011.
The act seeks to repeal and replace the Indictable Offences (Preliminary Inquiry) Act, Chap 12:01, by providing a new system of pretrial proceedings relating to indictable offences and is geared towards removing the backlog associated with the conduct of preliminary inquiries and introduces a new pretrial system for serious criminal matters which would reduce the pretrial waiting time.
Outlining the many preparations which need to be addressed, Seetahal named Criminal Masters as being one of the delays. Seetahal said, according to the act, Criminal Masters needed to be created. “This will replace magistrates in so far as the initial functions in relation to serious indictments,” she said.
Stating the masters would be tasked with issuing search warrants etc, Seetahal questioned how this could have occurred when masters were yet to be appointed.
Addressing the issue of there being Criminal Proceeding Rules (CPR), the senior counsel said in order for the process to take effect, rules dealing with not just timelines, but different procedural matters, “which will talk about what happens when an accused is committed to trial,” were among other in-house matters that needed to be implemented.
Forms prepared for scheduling orders, the filing of prosecution statements within a three-month time frame, along with police officers receiving training when taking statements, are just some of the delays experienced, Seetahal said. Adding that the act will see a speedier flow of matters in the magistrates courts, Seetahal queried “what will happen when they (matters) get to the Assizes?”
Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes also alluded to the CPR not being ready, saying the rules were needed for the act to be implemented. Former justice minister Herbert Volney, in a brief telephone interview yesterday, said come August 2, the stakeholders would not be ready for the implementation.
“No, they will not be ready. There are too many people who want to see this transition fail,” Volney said. The former minister said he led the process and also campaigned on the agenda for the act and had he been in office to date “that (stakeholders not being ready) would never have occurred.” “I think the population will be very disappointed with the Government when the stakeholders again say they are not ready,” Volney said.
Dumas: We are a last-minute country
Former head of the Public Service Commission Reginald Dumas said the Government’s decision to push back the implementation date to August 2 was done because they didn’t have a choice. Dumas said it was quite clear that issues of accommodation, staff training and hiring of Masters were still in abeyance and not yet finalised.
“We are a last-minute country, it’s in our genes. We do not plan, sit down and strategise. It doesn’t surprise me. We do not deal with the consequences. We are accustomed doing things vie-ki-vie,” he said. Adding that it has been “obvious for some time now, for months, that the initial January date would not be met,” Dumas questioned why the January 2, 2013, date was agreed to.
“Why so soon was the date agreed to, when it was obvious a considerable amount of time was needed to have things in place,” he said.
Volney: Ish and Steve not affected
Volney explained that the delay of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Offences) Act 2011 will no way affect the matters against businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson. He explained that the act had nothing to do with the men who are also financiers of the United National Congress.
“Section 34 has nothing to do with the rest of the act. It is a miscellaneous provision put in the act to deal with the issue of the background, the rest of the act deals with front entry cases,” Volney said. Section 34 was repealed last October following its early proclamation.
The section would have allowed people charged under the act to apply for the charges to be dropped if they allegedly committed offences more than ten years previously. The businessmen, along with 24 other accused who were eligible under the legislation, have since filed constitutional motions challenging the repeal which resulted in Volney being fired.
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