Saturday, February 17, 2018

‘Overhaul criminal justice system’

This country will return to the law of the jungle if there is no overhaul of the criminal justice system and its members are murdered, says Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith.

Hamel-Smith was paying tri­bute yesterday to former independent senator and prominent senior counsel Dana Seetahal at the Senate sitting in the Parliament building, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.

He hailed her as a much-admired woman and a brilliant attorney who could be relied upon to present her views fearlessly and independently.

“As we ponder this great tra­gedy, we ask, “How can we live and what can we do to make sure that Dana did not die in vain—that she continues speaking to us in our hearts?” said Hamel-Smith.

“It is absolutely vital that all of us who collectively make up the stakeholders in the criminal justice system, including us legislators, the judiciary, the Police Service, defence lawyers, prosecutors, the Ministry of Justice and the media, take up the challenge to overhaul the system from top to bottom,” he said.

He noted a report from the United States Department of Justice on this country’s institutions in their fight against crime and the drug war, which states “strict adherence to rigid and often outdated methodologies by mid-level officials, as well as restrictive decision-making systems that do not empower functionaries limit the ability of these critical organisations to innovate and keep pace with highly flexible criminal organisations”.

“If we allow the murdering of those involved in the criminal justice system to pass without overhauling the system, we are destined to return to the law of the jungle—indeed we started on this slippery slope some time ago when witnesses were murdered or started losing their memories or simply disappeared,” said Hamel-Smith.

“In memory of Dana and as a tribute to the excellence of her, let us therefore leave no stone unturned in ensuring that our crimin­al justice system is re-engineered to serve the cause of justice,” he concluded.