Independent Senator Sophia Chote, SC, on Thursday complained in the Senate about deficiencies in a bill to abolish preliminary inquiries and about how the Government had presented it, the Indictable Offences (Pre-Trial Procedure) Bill 2017.
The bill abolishes preliminary inquiries and sets out new pre-trial procedure.
She said the bill seriously threatens the rights of an accused person, in both his criminal matter and in any civil action for redress that he may take in future.
Chote lamented that the bill in section 21 says the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) must keep possession of the accused documents ahead of the case, but said this severely deprives the accused.
“What checks and balances do we find there? What happens to these important documents if no indictment is filed (for a criminal prosecution)? The accused may need to sue the State but how does he get his things back?”
She quipped that at present the DPP’s Office does not even have enough photocopiers and probably also lacks storage space, ahead of these added duties.
Chote complained that the bill made no reference to the Criminal Proceeding Rules, saying, “That’s a total conflict and I don’t know how we’ll reconcile it.”
She alleged that it did not protect the rights of accused juveniles.
Chote hit Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi who earlier presented the bill, saying, “It is unfair to ask us to support the legislation and say, ‘I’ll give justification when I wrap up the debate’.”
Opposition Senator Wayne Sturge complained that for hybrid offences that are triable by jury or by jury, the bill proposes that this choice be made by the DPP, when in fact it should be the magistrate. “Why are you removing a magisterial power and giving it to a party to the proceedings,” he asked.