DIRECTOR of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC, says he was never asked to comment on the significance of Section 34 (2) and 34 (3) of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 prior to the Bill being introduced in Parliament on November 11, 2011.
In a statement issued yesterday, Gaspard said he could not comment on Section 34 or Schedule 6, as now contained in the Act, because they were not in the draft Bill sent to him by Justice Minister Herbert Volney in March 2011. He said he commented on the Bill in detail in a letter dated May 6, 2011 which was forwarded to Volney.
Gaspard said he consulted with legal luminaries, both locally and abroad, and they were not able to point him in the direction of any legislation in the entire Commonwealth that could be considered to be "a sibling of or parallel with Section 34 (2) and 34 (3) of the Act".
"The offences in Schedule 6 appear to have been selected by category rather than gravity," Gaspard said.
"They do not, for example, include sedition, terrorism, piracy, money laundering or offences under the Larceny and Forgery Acts. This has the potential to disfigure the international visage of Trinidad and Tobago, especially since some of these offences and fraud tend to involve delayed detections and lengthy investigations spanning several jurisdictions."
Section 34 addresses the discharge of accused persons on the ground of delay if the prosecution of matters, laid indictably, have not commenced in the High Court within ten years of the commission of the alleged offence.
The offences not covered under Section 34 are contained in Schedule 6 of the Act. These include murder, manslaughter, kidnapping for ransom, rape, grievous sexual assault, sexual assault with a female under the age of 14, incest, buggery, trafficking in persons, possession of a dangerous drug for the purpose of trafficking and unlawful possession of a firearm.
Gaspard said he attended a meeting held by the Judiciary and Justice Sector Committee at the Chief Justice's Conference Room at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain on July 24, 2012 to discuss, among other things, how the Act was to be implemented.
"During this meeting the effect and, to some extent, the import of Section 34 of the Act were raised. This prompted a response by the Minister of Justice that Cabinet had made a decision," the DPP said.
*See text of full statement by the DPP on Page 13