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Saturday 7 December 2019
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AG: Time to split up courts

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi is calling for the division of the courts in TT to clear up the over 90,000 matters pending before the magistracy and the over 1,900 before the high courts.

Over 50 per cent of those matters before the magistrates’ courts comprised, almost 50,136, were driving offences.

In his contribution during the debate on An Act to make jurisdiction for criminal matters exercisable in a division of the High Court, in the Senate on Thursday, Al-Rawi said justice for all was perhaps the most important issue in our society.

“Justice is the filter which manages society’s peace, order and good governance. It is the justice system which manages the observance of due process, the emboldening and development of our country and the good and peaceful order of our society,” he said.

The AG said the country’s criminal justice system was at a grinding halt where those who were accused were not being brought before the courts.

“There has been a significant amount of paralysis analysis. TT recognising that the preliminary inquiry system and pre-trial detention remand can be as long as 17 to 20 years in our country where people are not brought before a court of law to either have themselves vindicated from an allegation, or convicted on a charge.

“They agree the system is going nowhere which contributes an abuse on society. Victims are left in the lurch of having to relive the trauma of the crime over and over. Those who are accused but are innocent find themselves lost in the system where they are forgotten,” Al-Rawi said.

He said with the implementation of the Children’s Court, 804 matters have been seen, which demonstrated that the division approach resulted in a significant quickening of justice.

“Next we want the criminal division, the civil division and the probate division. We want to formalise the structure of the courts, modelling after the family and children division, flattening the judicial and administration system and merging the jurisdictions between the High Court and the Summary Court,” the AG said.

The AG also felt that the clerks of the peace should be removed as part of the judicial process.

“Ninety-five per cent of prosecutions are dealt with by the TT Police Service prosecutors, five per cent by the DPP. Who runs the magistrates’ courts? Who runs the administrative end of the magistrates’ courts when the magisterial officers are in court?

“The clerk of the peace who is most senior in the management system, who is not an attorney at law, who is in fact breaching the Legal Profession Act by giving legal advice, by hearing bail applications, by managing the court process,” he said. He said the clerks of the peace were managing the judicial system with no technology.

The AG said expenditure of the Judiciary for 2000 to 2018 went from $103,813,947 to $386,776,6110, a four-fold increase.

“Let us put in an administrative structure such as we remove the concept of the clerk of the peace, we create a registrar, a clerk of the court, subordinates in rank, we link it to the report (to a) magistrate, and we should have a unified registry,” Al-Rawi suggested.

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