Straight to High Court for sexual, human trafficking offences

File photo: Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
File photo: Chief Justice Ivor Archie.

ANYONE on a sexual offence or human trafficking charge will soon no longer face a preliminary inquiry in the magistrates’ court, but will have their charges filed directly to the High Court.

The move is expected to take place once the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Amendment Act is proclaimed.

Already to prepare for the proclamation, Chief Justice Ivor Archie has issued practice directions setting out the types of cases to be dealt with, using special rules to have them fast-tracked.

The Judiciary also said the move is expected to give it better control over the progress of these types of cases.

The practice directions identify 46 specific sexual offences and human trafficking offences which will now be subject to the sexual offences and trafficking in persons special criminal court procedure rules.

It was gazetted on January 22 and will take effect on a date in the first quarter of 2023, the notice signed by the Chief Justice said.

It also explained that the Judiciary recognised the role of the court, attorneys and parties in managing and participating actively in the progression of these types of matters to fair and speedy disposition.

It was also mindful of the negative effect of delay on the victims and witnesses in cases involving sexual offences and trafficking in persons and the need to limit the re-traumatisation of victims of sexual offences and human trafficking.

It further said there was a need for all agencies in the criminal justice system who play a role in the progress of cases involving sexual offences and trafficking in persons to act with alacrity and to be cognisant of the nature of these offences and their effect on victims and on the accused.

The Judiciary also said it further recognised the multi-jurisdictional impact of cases involving these offences and the need to repatriate foreign victims and witnesses to their country of origin in an expeditious and sensitive manner as well as the need for early identification and disposition involving these types of offences.

In a statement, the Judiciary said all agencies in the criminal justice system -including the police, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions; the prisons; the forensic science centre; the Public Defenders’ Department; and the Law Association have been meeting, as part of the criminal justice committee chaired by Archie, to prepare for the proclamation of the law to eliminate preliminary inquiries to speed up the hearing of criminal cases.

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"Straight to High Court for sexual, human trafficking offences"

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