At left is Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Wayne Rajbansie
Photo Credit: Melissa Edwards/BVI Platinum News
The reintroduction of police prosecutors, succession planning and training are among a wave of plans expected to be instituted by the newly appointed Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Wayne Rajbansie.
Rajbansie, a native of Trinidad outlined his plans to reform the office of the DPP during a special sitting of the Supreme Court in Road Town to mark the opening of the 2012/2013 law year, today September 18.
In his remarks, the DPP said to address concerns that have been expressed relating to the lack of experience of the lawyers within the office he has completed an assessment of the staff and it is proposed that the legal staff will receive immediate in-house regular training and subsequently external training and attachments.
"A monthly programme has been devised in some detail and the training workshops will commence on the 20th at the office. This training will include inter alia, lectures on all aspects of criminal law, evidence law, advocacy, drafting, practice and procedure as it presently obtains as well as establishing best practices standards for the future," he stated.
Rajbansie explained that the sessions will also include a practical component so errors, strengths and weaknesses can be identified and corrected. He noted that the programme will also see the direct input of members of the Bar, Police Force, forensic services, judiciary and magistracy as well as other stakeholders in the criminal justice system.
After presiding over his first criminal assizes in the BVI, Justice Albert Redhead in July had cited a number of shortcomings by the Police, Prison and more so, the DPP Office.
At the closing of the criminal on 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. The Judge also stated that he is very disappointed in the lack of ambiance in disposal of cases in the assizes.
The DPP also announced that along with the BVI Bar Association a structured mentorship programme will be put in place. He said the services of the most senior members of the Inner Bar are to be engaged and there will be an enhanced collaboration and structured mentorship programme that will be geared to overall development of Crown Prosecutors as professionals and as advocate attorneys.
As part of the reform, Rajbansie has implemented a new court restoring system. he pointed out that in the new paradigm the Principal Crown Counsel (PCC) will be assigned all the work of the Privy Council and the Court of Appeal. The PCC will assist in vetting the complaints and indictments and will have a greater input in office administration.
Under the new system, the PCC is also assigned additional tasks on reform committees and responsibility sharing and supervision of junior counsel.
He said the High Court Criminal Assizes will now be staffed by two senior crown counsel which means that the two prosecutors will be responsible for all the matters for the upcoming Michaelmas Law Term.
Further, they will also be utilized in the vetting of complaints, drafting of file summaries and indictments, supervising of individual magistrate´s court prosecutors and committee work in the financial services sector.
The DPP said the remaining four members of staff will now address all the work of the Magistrate´s Court. The new system is that two persons each have been assigned to the court at John´s Hole and Prospect Reef, while Virgin Gorda court will be assigned monthly.
"The office is presently in the process of shifting and reassigning the files. This system will take effect immediately and will be reviewed at the close of the term in December. This hopefully will see counsel being better prepared for trial. Counsel now has sufficient time to communicate with the police and have all witnesses attend trial as scheduled. Any initial teething problems will be addressed in quick shrift,´ Rajbansie said.
Also, in relation to the institution of an efficient case flow management system within the office, the DPP said working closely with the Magistrate´s Court he proposes to have two members of staff, one being administrative trained in the working machination of the existing Judicial Electronic Management System, (JEMS).
The DPP has also stated that an electronic sentencing database is being devised within the office, which will see see proper sentencing guidance and guidelines being established.
"The Magistrate´s court sentencing database is almost up to date. With immediate effect systems were put in place to address all sentences from the Assize, Court of Appeal and Privy Council. Over the next year, the closed files and their sentences will also be cataloged and put on an electronic database system," he explained
Succession & Police Prosecutors
The new DPP will also be tackling the issue of succession planning, and as such a new system of responsibility sharing has been implemented in line with his vision for succession planning within the office.
He explained that in the new system, the DPP retains full responsibility for all the staff members, both legal and administrative; however, senior attorneys will have direct hands on role in the active supervision of the junior attorneys.
"There will be more communication, easier access to counsel and timely advice. No attorney will be left to languish in a silo devoid of assistance. This system of responsibility sharing has already taken effect. During the past week several members of staff, both legal and administrative, participated in a week long management training programme," he said.
At center is Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Wayne Rajbansie and members of the legal fraternity
Photo Credit: Melissa Edwards/BVI Platinum News
In relation to the reintroduction of police prosecutors from October 1 at the Magistrate´s court, the DPP said it is being done to address the backlog of strict liability Road Traffic infractions.
"The policy that I have prepared and submitted to the Commissioner of Police will see the Police Prosecutors assisting the Magistrate in 32 specific minor road traffic matters. The Police Prosecutors will have the direct assistance of the Principal Crown Counsel for the initial sessions," he said.
The officers have also been invited to participate in the in-house training workshops at the DPP´s office commencing on September 20 and continuing monthly. He said their long term retention will be reviewed by the end of December.
Meanwhile, he said a comprehensive review of the existing criminal legislation landscape is being undertaken at this time, and attention is presently being concentrated on all the Financial Services legislation.
The DPP stated that it is his fervent hope that the efforts being made will yield tangible results for the people of the BVI and that they enjoy a greater sense of security, confident that crimes are being prosecuted competently and in a timely manner.
Justice Redhead briefly commented that the DPP´s `very ambitious reform programme´ when implemented he has no doubt that it will bear fruit.
"I look forward to working with you," the Judge stated.