Two senior Judiciary staff have joined in the heated public debate between Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard, SC, over the chronic delays in the criminal justice system.
In a press release issued yesterday, acting Supreme Court Registrar Kerri-Ann Oliverie-Stuart and Deputy Court Executive Administrator for the Criminal Division Vanessa Garcia sought to respond to statements made by Gaspard in his release on Archie’s comments during his annual address at the opening of the 2020/2021 Law Term.
“While the Judiciary has no desire to enter into a debate on the issues, we the undersigned feel compelled to state the matter for the sake of the record and wish to clarify,” they said.
They mainly took aim at Gaspard’s complaint that his office was only able to file 12 indictments, for cases which have passed the preliminary inquiry stage, over the past year.
They explained that in April last year, the Chief Magistrate approached Gaspard’s office to suggest the electronic transfer of documents related to completed preliminary inquiries.
They claimed that electronic transfer was suggested due to the financial costs and delays associated with printing multiple copies of the voluminous documents, but the DPP’s Office refused to move away from the traditional paper transfer.
hile they stated that the Judiciary had agreed to provide paper copies for some cases and allowed the traditional filing of those, they claimed that the DPP’s Office did not follow the proper procedure of notification before attempting to utilise the service and was refused.
“While there may be several factors which contributed to the low number of matters filed by you, to suggest that it is due to the Judiciary “reneging on an arrangement to accept, otherwise than by electronic means, the traditional filing of approximately 450 committals and related indictments, together with transcripts” is patently untrue,” they said.
Turning to Gaspard’s allegation that Archie was disingenuous in his criticism of the low filing rate as he did not consider that his office filed between 150 and 300 indictments a year over the past decade, they pointed out that in 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 46 and 48 indictments were filed.
“Unfortunately, it is not an aberration as suggested by you but a troubling trend showing a significant reduction over a three year period from 2017-2020 which warrants urgent review of the system,” they said.
They claimed that the issue with the late filing of indictments arose shortly after the Judiciary introduced regular status hearings for filed cases in an attempt to actively address the backlog.
They highlighted the case of a man, who expressed a desire to plead guilty to an offence but had to wait three years for the DPP’s Office to file his indictment for it to be processed by a judge.
Referring to Gaspard’s comments on the role of judges in suggesting plea bargaining, they suggested that the DPP is the main agent in the process.
“With active, organised and disciplined use of the various case management tools by the Office of the DPP, defence counsel and the court, the criminal backlog can be drastically reduced and we look forward to your active support in achieving this goal,” they said.
They invited the DPP’s Office to make arrangements for the documents related to almost 1,000 outstanding cases to be brought into the Judiciary to be scanned and filed.
They also offered assistance in training staff to use the Judiciary’s new electronic systems.