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Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has expressed concern about the delays in the justice system and the spike in murders which have surpassed last year’s toll. Speaking to reporters at the Prime Minister’s annual toy drive at Skinner Park, San Fernando, yesterday, Persad-Bissessar also said the Government will be looking at proclaiming the “infamous” Preliminary Inquiry Bill in an attempt to deal with the backlog of cases.
She made the statements when asked to comment on the recent criticism against Chief Justice Ivor Archie about delays by judges in delivering judgments. Commending the Chief Justice on measures and steps taken to address the issue, Persad-Bissessar said any delay in the administration of justice is a concern to everyone.
However, she said: “There are matters that we could help with which is on a legislative scale. You remember the infamous Preliminary Inquiry Bill that we had brought to the Parliament which remains yet unproclaimed. “It is something we want to look at again because that could help to deal with some of the backlog at magistrates courts by removing preliminary inquiries and doing paper committals and so on. So legislatively there are matters we could do.”
Concerns were raised after attorneys of death row inmate Lester Pitman threatened legal action challenging the Court of Appeal’s almost four-year delay to hand down his decision. Pitman’s lawyers have also threatened to write the Prime Minister to invoke impeachment proceedings against the Chief Justice for judicial misconduct last month. Asked if she received any letter regarding that matter, she said she had not received any letter, but she could not say whether one was received by the Office of the Prime Minister.
Pledging the Government’s continued support of the Chief Justice and judiciary, she said, “This is not a new matter, while there have been some reductions in the time spans for delays and the completion of matters, indeed there is more that can be done by all of us.” Addressing the issue of murders, which have now surpassed last year’s toll of 379, Persad-Bissessar lamented that some of them were crimes of passion. However, she said, “Murder is murder and every single one is painful and traumatic to us.”
On the the Government’s commitment in the fight against crime, she said: “I know the Minister of National Security is doing the best that he can, but there is still much more that we need to do. Some of the crimes are crimes of passion. That does not mean that it is correct, that it is something that is right. Those are more difficult to contain where it is that it is a domestic situation where crimes of passion are taking place. But murder is murder and each loss is a great loss.”
Persad-Bissessar also agreed with the proposal made by the Standing Order Committee of the House of Representatives last Friday to reduce the speaking time of MPs from 75 minutes to 30 minutes. The committee also recommended a monthly 30-minute question time for the Prime Minister to respond on issues of national importance. The PM said: “I believe we talk too much sometimes in Parliament. There is a famous saying (which states) ‘say it in six and if you can’t say it in six then it is not good listening.’”
In other Parliaments, she said, the MPs speaking time is much shorter than 75 minutes. “But,” she said, “it is before the House committee and it will be discussed and debated as well, so it may be a step in the right direction. We need to get consensus from the Parliament as a whole in terms of speaking time.”
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