SIDE BY SIDE: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC, and Chief Justice Ivor Archie walk to the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain yesterday for the ceremonial opening of the 2012/2013 Law Term. See Pages 4, 5 & 9. —Photo: Ishmael Salandy



We must and will resist any temptation to make a premature start in the eagerness to demonstrate performance

By Keino Swamber

CHIEF Justice Ivor Archie said yesterday the implementation of any legislative policy to eliminate preliminary enquiries could not realistically have taken place before the first quarter of 2013.

In delivering his address at the opening of the 2012/2013 Law Term at the Convocation Hall at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain, Archie said the Judiciary never discussed or contemplated partial implementation of any such policy.

While not referring specifically to the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 and the controversial Section 34 which was proclaimed but repealed shortly after, Archie said the elimination of preliminary enquiries was a mammoth undertaking.

"It is no surprise that in other jurisdictions like New Zealand, where similar reforms were undertaken, the lag between passage of the relevant legislation and the implementation of reforms was more than a year," Archie said.

"It has always been our position, and we so advised, that implementation could not realistically take place before the first quarter of 2013 and we in the Judiciary have never discussed or contemplated partial implementation.

"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. We must and will resist any temptation to make a premature start in the eagerness to demonstrate 'performance'. All the ducks must be lined up or chaos will ensue right after start-up and we will simply create a fresh and intractable backlog."

Archie said several administrative and logistical issues must be addressed before new legislation and policies are adopted and rolled out.

"Courtrooms, registries, and monitoring and compliance units have to be established. Procedural Rules have to be drafted from which process flows have to be designed and integrated with the case management information system. New positions have to be created and staff recruited and trained at every level from judge and master to counter clerk. Most of these activities are sequential. We are still in the process of identifying and outfitting suitable physical spaces, although draft criminal procedure rules are now available for comment and finalisation."

Archie said over 14,000 matters were filed in the criminal courts each year that are triable on indictment only or triable either way—indictably (in the High Court) or summarily (in the Magistrates' Court).

He said while it is expected that the prosecuting authorities would choose to charge a significant number of the less serious matters summarily, it is clear that any new system that is put in place will have to absorb a huge influx of new matters in addition to those already in the system for which transitional arrangements have to be made.

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