SEVERAL initiatives under the guidance of Chief Justice Ivor Archie to speed up justice kicked off today in San Fernando, through training newly-appointed Masters of the High Court.
Bail monitoring, case management and jury exemptions will no longer tie up judges on the criminal bench, leaving them to adjudicate on trials of the murder, rape, robbery cases that have clogged the judicial system.
Given the crime rate, especially murders, the completion of preliminary inquiries in the magistrates’ court and trials in the High Court is far from putting a dent in the backlog.
Today in the San Fernando High Court, Justice Gillian Lucky began training sessions for masters Nannette Forde-John (former deputy chief magistrate), Gillian Scotland and Debra Quintyne (former senior magistrates); Michelle Maharaj-Brown and Margaret Sookraj-Goswami (former deputy registrar/marshal); Shabiki Cazabon (assistant registrar/deputy marshal).
Lucky led a training session on bail monitoring, which the masters will eventually take over.
In welcoming them, she said the new system, a vision that is worthy of the highest commendation, will see a freer flow of criminal cases as the judiciary seeks to weed out the bureaucracy of trial preparations that often stifles the willingness and enthusiasm of judges to adjudicate on as many cases as they would like.
It was an interactive session., with Lucky, the masters and accused people or their relatives dealing with issues of bail.
The masters will also eventually take over jury exemptions and case management of criminal cases for trial preparation. Lucky expressed the view that the effect of the masters adjudicating on the preparatory aspects of cases will revolutionise judges’ work.
A source in the judiciary explained afterwards to Newsday that judges will be given a list of cases for trial. Many of the exigencies which would have held up cases from going to trial stage will now have been ironed out already.
“So a judge will now find him or herself in the courtroom, whether in Port of Spain, San Fernando or Tobago, to began the trial from the list – select the jury and begin,” the source said.
President of the Assembly of Southern Lawyers Ramesh Deena and attorney Faraaz Mohammed, praised the initiative and but expressed the view that practice at the criminal bar for young attorneys is sorely lacking.
The masters’ training will continue for the next two weeks on case management and jury exemptions.