Law put on hold
Tuesday, January 1 2013
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CABINET has advised President George Maxwell Richards to revoke the proclamation appointing January 2 (tomorrow) as the date on which sections 3 (2), 3 (3), 4 - 31, 33, 35 and Schedules 1 - 5, 7 and 8 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011, were to become law.
The Justice Ministry, in a release yesterday, stated this decision was made based on feedback from “a number of stakeholders” including the Judiciary, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard and the Law and Criminal Bar Associations, who “each indicated they would not be ready (for) successful implementation of the legislation”, by the stated implementation date of January 2.
President George Maxwell Richards has therefore been advised the new date for proclamation of these sections would be August 2. Under the Act, preliminary inquiries in the Magistrates Court would be abolished and replaced by sufficiency hearings before masters of the High Court.
This was intended to reduce the backlog of preliminary inquiries which have clogged up the judicial system. Instead, a Master of the Court would review evidence at a sufficiency hearing to decide if a case should go to a trial, thereby eliminating the need to go before a magistrate. This would cut down the amount of time it takes for criminal matters to be heard before a High Court judge.
According to the Justice Ministry, the delay in implementation of the Act was deemed necessary after stakeholders said they “required more time to complete training, build capacity and upgrade plant.” Hence the seven month delay in implementation, from January 2 to August 2, 2013.
Volney: “I’d have gotten it done”
Speaking yesterday on the issue, fired Justice Minister Herbert Volney said, “if I was still minister, the system would have been changed come January 2, 2013.”
“I was driving that process, fulfilling the people’s mandate but those who opposed the change seem to have reversed direction once I left office. During my meeting with (stakeholders) at the Justice Ministry on July 24, the Minister of Public Administration agreed to facilitate the hiring of support staff, including eight masters to preside over criminal matters. I also got an agreement from Chief Justice Ivor Archie on the January 2 timeline for implementation.”
Volney then declared if Government intends to implement the Act on the new proclamation date of August 2, his replacement — Justice Minister Christlyn Moore — “must resume the drive I was leading to get this process completed. Right now it is in reverse!”
He blamed some of the delay on persons within the Director of Public Prosecutions office and the Judiciary’s Department of Court Administration “dragging their feet” on completing tasks.
Volney cited a request made during the July 24 meeting to the Department of Court Administration for a list of required staff. “They took a whole month to send me that list, a whole month. No wonder things have slowed down since I’m no longer there to push for completion.”
Contacted for comment on Volney’s statements and the new proclamation deadline, the Judiciary’s Court Protocol and Information Manager, Jones P Madeira, referred Newsday to the Chief Justice’s address during the September 17 opening of the 2012 - 2013 Law Term.
Archie noted the mammoth task required to implement the full Act. “We have nevertheless agreed to a very ambitious timeline and start-up is now set for the beginning of January 2013. We are working assiduously towards its fulfillment, but we will start when we are ready.”
Referring to Section 34’s early proclamation, he said the Judiciary never intended partial implementation.
“Courtrooms, registries, and monitoring and compliance units have to be established...Procedural Rules have to be drafted...New positions have to be created and staff recruited and trained at every level from Judge and Master to counter clerk...We are still in the process of identifying and outfitting suitable physical spaces,” Archie stated.