Justice Albert Redhead
After presiding over his first criminal assizes in the BVI, Justice Albert Redhead has cited a number of shortcomings by the Police, Prison and more so, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Office.
At the closing of the criminal assizes today, July 27, the Judge, a native of Grenada, said most of the Crown Counsel lack experience and they should not be thrown out in the deep.
"In my view, most of the Crown Counsel lack experience. An inexperienced Counsel, when presenting their case, should be accompanied in my opinion, in court, by an experienced Crown Counsel so that the inexperienced Crown Counsel can be guided. To be thrown in the deep end is one thing, but to be exposed by the views of experienced Counsel either through advice or by observing experienced Counsel in operation, for example, the Director of Public Prosecutions," he stated.
Further, the Judge said he is very disappointed in the lack of ambiance in disposal of cases in the assizes. During this assizes, only 13 cases were disposed of and 15 were traversed to the October assizes.
The Judge stated that this means more cases are being traversed than disposed of.
"This, to my mind, makes a very dismal picture of achievement...This seems to be a practice in the BVI...It is one of the ways to keep down criminal activities in society; must resolve in quick resolution of criminal cases...The system in place is designed to facilitate and encourage delays," the Judge stated.
He also reiterated his initial comments when he came to the Territory, that case management has no place in criminal trials.
"It is a waste of time and encouraging delays...What is more effective in my view is that at the opening of the criminal assizes, all the cases are brought before the court, the accused persons are arraigned and dates are then set for the trial of the accused. When a case is set, another case is set as a backup...In other words, two cases should be on the list at any one time. So if one case falls through, there is another case to fall back on. In that way, you minimize the time that is lost, you also minimize the waste of the time of the court," the Judge asserted.
Justice Redhead stated that he has also made further observations where he heard from the Prosecution too often that its witnesses were not available. This, the Judge said, should never be a reason for delaying or postponing a trial, except for special reasons.
"When a witness gives evidence at the Preliminary Inquiry, he or she is bound to appear in the High Court to give his or her evidence. When the case reaches the High Court, all the Prosecution needs to do is to give sufficient notice to that witness that he or she is required to give evidence on a particular date..If the witness fails to appear, a summons can be issued to compel the attendance of that individual," he stated.
Justice Redhead spoke about other delays including on indictments being filed and noted that he is aware that a matter is never before a court unless or until an indictment is filed.
"I observed throughout the assizes that indictments are not filed for many cases, yet dates are requested for the case for mention. That is a waste of time, when in fact those matters are not before the court."
He further stated, "Another source of delay is that accused persons are not assigned Counsel by Legal Aid either because the application was not made on time or the application was not processed by Legal Aid. May I suggest that all applications for legal aid should be made at least two weeks before the commencement of the assizes so that all representations can be in place at the commencement of the assizes."
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
The Judge then turned to the law enforcement officers and stated that there is need for Police Officers to pay more attention to screening of everyone that enters the courtroom.
"Police Officers need to ensure that they are in court on time to ensure proper screening of everyone. Too often, jurors, accused persons and other members of the public who have business in the court have to stand outside until Police personnel come to court. This has happened on many occasions after 8:30 am...Officers need to be reminded that they are responsible for the security of the court," the Judge stated.
In relation to Prison Officers, the Judge said they should ensure that they keep control of prisoners whilst present at the court house.
"In terms of freedom of access to various parts of the room; that is, they should not be loitering in the corridors, kitchen area and especially in the jury's room," he stated.
The Judge said he hopes that the observations which he mentioned will be able to help in the future. He also thanked the jurors for their participation in the criminal justice system process.
"It is my view that this is one of the highest honors which can be bestowed on an individual. I believe in the jury system, not that I am in agreement, I must say with every not guilty verdict rendered, but that must be respected because you make that decision and no one can challenge it," Justice Redhead stated.