THE possible implications of the recently proclaimed Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 on matters which have been before the courts for several years, is causing some concern to Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard.
In fact, Gaspard said yesterday that he is "gravely concerned" and is considering his options but said it would be imprudent for him to comment further at this time.
Asked about the possible impact on the cases against businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, Gaspard said the new law is likely to have some impact.
Galbaransingh and Ferguson are accused of bid rigging and conspiracy to defraud the Government of Trinidad and Tobago during the period March 1, 1997 to December 21, 2000. The charges arose out of the Piarco Airport Terminal construction.
The Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011, which takes effect from January 2, 2013, has replaced the Preliminary Enquiry Act and negates the need for a preliminary enquiry to be held in relation to matters filed indictably.
Section 34 of the Act which addresses "discharge on the grounds of delay" states: "(1) Where proceedings are instituted on or after the coming into force of this Act and the Master is not, within twelve months after the proceedings are instituted, in a position to order that the accused be put on trial, the Master shall discharge the accused and a verdict of not guilty shall be recorded, except -
(a) in the case of matters listed in Schedule 6; or
(b) where the accused has evaded the process of the Court.
"After the expiration of ten years from the date on which an offence is alleged to have been committed:
(c) no proceedings shall be instituted for that offence; or
(d) no trial shall commence in respect of that offence except,
(a) in the case of matters listed in Schedule 6;
(b) where the accused has evaded the process of the Court,
(c) proceedings have been instituted;
(d) an accused is committed to stand trial; or
(e) an order is made to put an accused on trial,
whether before or after the commencement of this Act, a Judge shall, on an application by the accused, discharge the accused and record a verdict of not guilty if the offence is alleged to have been committed on a date that is ten years or more before the date of the application."
One week ago, Justice Minister Herbert Volney told the Express that only "deadwood cases" which have been in the court system for 10 years or more will be eligible for dismissal by a High Court Judge. He said these do not include murder, manslaughter, rape and other similar serious crimes.