The crime problem in Trinidad and Tobago is not as bad as many people make it out to be, says Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
"There is a sense that when we look at the print and electronic media that we are in danger," he said. "Personally, I don't think it is as bad sometimes as we think it is. But because we are a small society there is no anonymity to crime." He said because of the fear that exists, some members of society use this to intimidate those who participate in the legal process. "And because of that, there are those in our society who would seek to subvert the administration of justice by fear and intimidation either of witness, jurors or judicial officers," he said. "Over the years, there has been calls for closer attention to be made to the security of judicial officers. We have been subjected to threats and, on occasions, attacks, including firebombing." The Chief Justice was speaking at the first quarterly luncheon of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Westmoorings, yesterday. "I am advised that legislation is soon to be introduced that would permit trials by judge alone, where there is credible evidence of previous or attempted or likely jury tampering," he said.
"If this is introduced, it will increase the general threat levels for us judges." Archie criticised public officials who whip up public sentiment against the judiciary. "Whipping up public opinion against the judiciary is very dangerous and persons in public life should resist the temptation to pursue," he said. He added that the private sector needed to support an independent judiciary. "The private sector should be the leader in championing an independent and accountable judiciary in T&T...You must ensure an accountable and transparent institution," he said. Archie pointed out that magistrates in T&T were under pressure because of their heavy workload. "The 60 or so magistrates we have dispose of between 80,000 and 90,000 cases a year," he said. "It's quite a remarkable achievement...We have to bear in mind that the judicial officers are under tremendous pressure."
Archie added that a more efficient court system was being created in T&T. "The modern court environment that we are creating also includes enhanced case management and audio recording digital systems and those have begun to impact on the backlog of cases which we know to be a major concern," he said.