THE Judiciary’s fast-track court initiative to clear a backlog of criminal cases has been hailed as a success by Chief Justice Ivor Archie. As he gave an account of the initiative started by Justice Gillian Lucky, Archie said the Judiciary was poised to make a dent in the backlog by the end of the calendar year.
He spoke at the ceremonial opening for the 2018/2019 law term last week at the Convocation Hall at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain. According to the Judiciary’s annual report for the last term, 12 cases were disposed of as part of the initiative held during the court’s six-week long-vacation period.
Six judges sat for two weeks in Port of Spain, San Fernando and Tobago. Four cases were disposed of in Port of Spain, five in San Fernando and three in Tobago. Several others were case-managed and determined to be ready for trial.
The report said while the number of cases disposed of at the fast-track court may appear to be few, there was only one court operating in each location for the six weeks. The court was also temporarily de-railed by the 6.9 magnitude earthquake, last month. Judges each sat for a two-week period.
According to the report, under the heading: The Criminal Backlog, some 1,480 were found to be outstanding as at 2017.
All indictments filed before October 31, 2012, and yet to be tried, were deemed to be part of the criminal backlog, according to the report.
According to a table provided in the report, there were 186 people awaiting trial; 71 matters were in the case management stage; there were 412 outstanding bench warrants, four retrials pending and four sentences pending; while 32 files cannot be located.
There were 715 matters to be disposed of on the system and 52 cases where the accused is dead while four cases were taken off the list.
A further breakdown of the backlog showed 459 cases were in Port of Spain and of this number, 155 were between five and ten-years-old; 69 between 10 to 15-years-old and 235 cases 15-years and older.
In San Fernando, there were 236 cases; 105 between five and ten years-old, 18 between 10 and 15-years-old and 113 cases 15-years and older.
In Tobago, there was 14 in total; nine between five and ten years-old; one between 10 to 15-years-old and four 15-years and over.
The report said to address the backlog at both the magistrates and high courts, the implementation of the criminal procedure rules has resulted in a significant increase in matters being ready for dismissal. However, there are not enough judges.