Revisiting the issue of part-heard cases

THE EDITOR: After the recent preoccupation with the matter of the TT ferry service, same-day contributions in the media by two well-known attorneys have once again redirected attention to the Judiciary and, in particular, the issue of part-heard cases and the subsequent consequences thereof — a matter which I myself (a non-attorney) had sought to address several weeks ago.

The two contributions to which I am directing attention were by Robin Montano and Ernest Koylass, the latter a recent appointee to the Judicial and Legal Service Commission. Both learned gentlemen have purported to offer possible solutions to the matter.

In his piece, Montano made the point that restarting the 53 part-heard cases de novo after the “subject” prisoners had been languishing in Remand would be “wrong” and “unfair” and would be tantamount to “collateral damage.” His solution would be that “conditional pardons be given to each and every one of the 53 matters,” the condition for not figuratively being “dragged back to court on the initial charge” being what I would term life-long “good behaviour.”

Before proceeding further, let me seek to correct clearly an apparent misconception which has been responsible for having sparked the whole controversy in the Marcia Ayers- Caesar issue. The germane issue was not the fact that a total of 53 cases were in the hand of the former Chief Magistrate as, among these, would have been matters of varying lengths.

The central point concerned the seven or eight murder accused who, for whatever reason, had been languishing for several years in Remand, and whose position had been highlighted by their Senior Counsel. It is certainly inconceivable that matters of this nature had not occurred over the years.

In his piece, Koylass reviewed what, to him, are “options” for a solution. Among these are applying the powers of the DPP under the Indictable Offences (Preliminary Enquiry) Act. He sees “no reason why the current situation should be allowed to fester” (with which I fully concur).

Nevertheless, Koylass points to the fact that “there is no statutorily-prescribed procedure that speaks to such a situation.” However, he seems to favour an age-old procedure in 1909 for a hearing in the circumstances of a presiding magistrate becoming ill and unable to continue.

Of course, the question therefore now arises as to the manner by which this 1909 procedure could be “transformed” to meet the current impasse. Here Koylass offers a possible procedural solution involving, inter alia, the reswearing and recross-examination of witnesses.

I wrote, inter alia, in a letter dated June 6 in this matter:

“Certainly, this is a challenge for a young bright attorney to flex his or her muscles voluntarily and do some challenging research into the authorities which would properly inform opinion.” This, I now repeat.




"Revisiting the issue of part-heard cases"

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