Justice Albert Redhead will be presiding over this Criminal Assizes.
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
The October High Court Criminal Assizes which opens tomorrow, October 9, will hear a number of high profile cases including the murder cases involving Alcedo 'Cedo' Tyson and Rodney Simmonds Jr., Allen Baptiste and Yan Edwards.
Tyson is charged in the shooting death of his ex-girlfriend, Kawanna Toddissa Todd-Rhymer also known as 'Kay Kay' in March of this year, while Baptiste, Edwards and Simmonds Jr. are charged with the killing of Keri Harrigan, who was gunned down execution style in March 2011 at Long Look.
BVI Platinum News understands that the first trial will be the murder case against Edwards, Simmonds Jr. and Baptiste, which is expected to commence on October 15.
High Court Judge, Justice Albert Redhead will be presiding over the assizes.
There are several other cases scheduled including Chane Smith - rape; Stedroy Matthew - reckless driving; Jakiel Harrigan - handling stolen goods, acquisition, possession or use of the proceeds of criminal conduct; Wakima Lettsom - attempted murder; Rolland Allen - causing death by reckless driving, reckless driving; Oswin Baker - rape; Danny Benjamin - wounding with intent; Roro Eduorre and Renold Plasimond - unsafe conveyance, smuggling of immigrants, manslaughter; Ian Thomas known as DJ Commodore - rape and kidnapping with intent; Leonie Thompson - wounding; and Julian Christopher - indecent assault and rape, among others.
This assizes is expected to move forward with fewer adjournments with a new structure in place, which was instituted by the new Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Wayne Rajbansie.
The new measures, which will be tested during this assizes, include the assizes now being staffed by two senior crown counsel. This means that the two prosecutors will be responsible for all the matters for the upcoming Michaelmas Law Term.
Further, the senior crown counsel 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.
BVI Platinum News understands that Prosecutors Valston Graham and Christlyn Benjamin will take charge of this assizes.
In relation to the institution of an efficient case flow management system within the office, the DPP Rajbansie said working closely with the Magistrate's Court, he has proposed to have two members of staff, one being administrative trained in the working machination of the existing Judicial Electronic Management System, (JEMS).
Also, the new DPP stated that 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.
The issues of cases being traversed and the apparent lack of experience by some crown counsel in the DPP's office were raised by Justice Redhead after presiding over his first criminal assizes in the BVI. Justice Redhead in July cited a number of shortcomings by the police, prison and more so, the DPP Office.
The Judge, a native of Grenada, said most of the crown counsel lack experience and they should not be thrown out in the deep. He said he is very disappointed in the lack of ambiance in disposal of cases in the assizes. During that 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 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.
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
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."
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.
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.