Overhaul slow judicial system
Much is made of the low detection rate by the local police in all categories of crime, especially violent crime and murder. However, I wonder how many citizens are aware of the unbelievably slow pace of prosecution of criminal matters once they reach the courts.
There are currently three criminal courts or assizes, as they are still referred to in Trinidad—two in Port of Spain and one in San Fernando.
These three criminal courts average six completed matters each per year—or 18 matters in total.
Now, any one criminal defence lawyer of many can have over 60 murder cases, among other matters, awaiting trial, at any one time. So, you get the picture of exactly how hopeless this situation is.
How did we get there? is one question; and why have successive chief justices and other influential legal administrators done so very little to improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system? another.
I am told the situation is so bad at this time that many police officers will often forego arresting perpetrators of criminal activity because they fully realise just how broken the system is. To this letter writer, among the solutions which will take time to be effected are the following: 1. Immediately lease ten suitable buildings to serve as criminal courts; 2. Hire and promote new judges right away; 3. Abolish trial by jury; 4. Cut the length of written judgments required by 75 per cent; 5. Limit the appeals process to two, with the final appeal at the CCJ; 6. Convert the Tarouba stadium into a correctional facility to incarcerate the increased flow of inmates, with a better-working judicial system.
We should also set strict time limits for all court procedures and aim to complete 99 per cent of criminal trials, including the appeal process, within two years.
Justice delayed is justice denied.