CJ ON LONDON SCOUTING MISSON
By Andre Bagoo Sunday, September 23 2012
AMID lingering questions over the circumstances of the proclamation of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011, the Judiciary continues to quietly work toward the January 2013 implementation of the new law to abolish preliminary inquires.
Sunday Newsday understands that Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard SC and Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar are all this week due to make a trip to London, where they are to observe the United Kingdom’s own sufficiency hearing procedure, which is the review process used to determine if a matter goes to trial.
It is also understood that judges of the Supreme Court last Friday held a meeting at the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain, over proposed criminal procedure rules which are to be used to administer the new process, parallel to already existing civil procedure rules. The Chief Justice, last month, appointed Justice Geoffrey Henderson, a former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), to fast track the drawingup of the criminal rules which are to govern the process by which the High Court handles the review of criminal matters. It is understood that Henderson was asked to take charge of the process after the premature proclamation of Section 34 last month.
Ongoing preparations continue to be made for the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) to recruit new masters, who will be required to administer the new sufficiency procedure. The JLSC last week submitted comments to the unit of the Ministry of Public Administration, which is in charge of administering the process of recruitment and drawing up of terms and conditions for State posts. The comments are expected to head to Cabinet as a matter of priority.
The Cabinet in August estimated that eight new masters will have to be recruited, a move which will potentially cost about $3 million per year in salaries alone. There are currently three masters.
Last week, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said the Cabinet only approved the proclamation of Section 34 on assurances by Minister of Justice, Herbert Volney, that the CJ and DPP had been consulted over the proclamation of the section, which was supposedly designed to give the Judiciary authority to hire masters, who are judicial officers who function as administrative officers and are equipped with powers of judges.
The Cabinet note brought by Volney appeared to call for early proclamation of parts of the law, even though it suggested the CJ had agreed to proclamation “in its entirety”.
The Cabinet note apparently contained the following paragraph, “The Minister of Justice has consulted with the Honourable Chief Justice on a date for the Indictable Offences (Preliminary Inquiry) Act to be repealed and the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act, 2011 shall come into effect in its entirety on January 2, 2013.” However, the note further called for partial proclamation to allow recruitment of masters: “in order to facilitate a seamless operational transition it is necessary for the Act to be proclaimed in part on August 31, 2012, in order to inform the need, inter alia, for the creation of eight (8) new positions of Masters by an amendment to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act. This will give authority for the recruitment and appointment of Masters of the High Court by the Judicial and Legal Service Commission in order that the Act may be operationalised on its effective date of January 2, 2013.”
Questions remain, however, over the relevance of Section 34 to the process of recruitment of masters. Section 34 provided for an application to a judge – not a master – for an accused to be discharged and for a verdict of not guilty to be recorded. One part of the section referred to masters, but in context of imposing a statute of limitations for proceedings started under the new law after full implementation.
The JLSC, under the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, has power to appoint masters.
Volney refused to take further queries yesterday when directly asked whether he had told Cabinet that the CJ and DPP had been consulted on the advance proclamation of Section 34, as alleged by the Prime Minister. There also continued to be questions over the role and function of Attorney General Anand Ramlogan in Cabinet.
The Prime Minister, in her speech to the nation last Thursday, paused to note that Ramlogan was out of the country from July 20 to August 4. She also said Ramlogan had no direct part in the process of proclamation of the law. However, the Cabinet note in question was dated August 6, discussed and approved on August 9, and also confirmed on August 16. Though Ganga Singh, the Water Resources Minister, was Acting Attorney General in Ramlogan’s absence, that acting appointment ended upon Ramlogan’s return. Singh later left the country on August 9, the day of the deliberation on the Cabinet note.
There has been no explanation for the insertion of the “new” Section 34 into the act, last year, which compelled a judge to render a not guilty verdict if the crime was more than ten years old. Also, no reasons for key omissions in an act to repeal Section 34 two weeks ago have also been offered. The original repeal bill did not contain a section barring persons who had already applied under Section 34 from suing the State.
Repealed Section 34
34. (1) Where proceedings are instituted on or after the coming into force of this Act and the Master is not, within 12 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.
(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.
(3) Except —
(a) in the case of matters listed in Schedule 6; or
(b) where the accused has evaded the process of the Court, where —
(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.