2020189
DPP Roger Gaspard

A criminal defence attorney has won his lawsuit against the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) over its failure to respond to his request for information pertaining to chronic delays in the criminal justice system.

Delivering a judgement, yesterday, High Court Judge Ricky Rahim ruled that the DPP’s Office failed in its duty under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to inform attorney Peter Carter whether his request would be granted or denied within a reasonable time.

As part of the decision, Rahim gave the DPP’s Office 14 days in which to complete the process and inform Carter.

According to the evidence in the case, Carter made the request in October, last year, and filed the case after he failed to receive a response by January, this year.

Carter’s request centred around the role of the Office of the DPP in filing High Court indictments for murder cases.

The filing of indictments takes place after a person is committed to stand trial following an assessment of the evidence against them during the preliminary inquiry in the Magistrate’s Court.

Once an indictment is filed, the case then joins the end of the line-up of hundreds of criminal cases awaiting trial in the High Court.

In his request, Carter was seeking information on the number of committed cases, in which indictments were outstanding, and the average timeframe for filing indictments after committal documents are received by the Office of the DPP.

Carter was also seeking information on whether different timelines were used for murders allegedly committed by minors.

Despite his legal victory in the case, Carter may still be eventually denied access to the information as the DPP’s Office is entitled to claim that the requested information is exempt from public disclosure when it responds to him in two weeks time.

The issue of the filing of indictments was raised by Chief Justice Ivor Archie during his address during the opening of the 2020/2021 Law Term, last October.

Archie highlighted the fact that over the previous year only 12 indictments were filed by the Office of the DPP.

Archie’s comments sparked a public war of words between the High Court Registry and the DPP’s Office over the introduction of an electronic system to transfer and file court documents such as indictments.

Carter was represented by Samantha Ramsaran.