Blaming the DPP

Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard. File photo by Sureash Cholai
Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard. File photo by Sureash Cholai

In an unusual move, the Chief Justice joined the spirited finger-pointing sparked by Director of Public Prosecutions, Roger Gaspard, when he noted that his office was understaffed and incapable of handling the workload expected of it.

In a ten-page letter on the matter, CJ Ivor Archie outlined a distressing sequence of circumstances, which partly acknowledged the shortfall in staff at the DPP's office, but also questioned, both generally and specifically, Mr Gaspard's approach to solving the problems.

In responses to the CJ's letter, both Israel Khan, SC, head of the Criminal Bar Association, and former Law Association president Martin Daly, SC, wondered about the reasons for its publication.

Mr Daly sensibly called for answers to key questions raised by the imbroglio, including the missteps that led to an evidently crippling understaffing of the DPP's department, and the failure to occupy a Park Street building, leased at great expense.

The Chief Justice's observation that the DPP's apparent shortfalls have caused the Administration of Justice Indictable Proceedings Amendment Act, a key piece of legislation intended to bring useful changes to the criminal justice system, to be delayed for years is another matter of concern.

The furore has been fanned along by the Prime Minister calling on Mr Gaspard to "Make the most of what you have."

AG Reginald Armour was more blunt, describing Mr Gaspard's statement on March 11 as "an unsatisfactory explanation for underperformance," triggering calls by the Criminal Bar Association for an apology. Prosecutors demanded the same, moments after a meeting between the DPP and the AG on Wednesday, to hopefully resolve the issue.

What is clear in an increasingly muddy situation, is that the criminal justice system is not being served by either the senior-level crosstalk or the underlying failings that have triggered it.

Beyond the spectacle of the most senior members of the legal fraternity and national governance engaging in an apparently endless blame game is a creeping concern that the system seems unable to adequately correct its own failings in the interest of justice for the hundreds of accused awaiting trial.

There's little point in joining this carefully worded and legally circumscribed shouting match.

No participant in this situation is beyond reproach regarding their own role in the administration of justice. Who will navigate this unproductive mire of accusation and counter-accusation to useful outcomes? The country should turn to its President, who has the gravitas to act as a mediator, but that role is currently in transition, with Paula-Mae Weeks demitting office to make way for Christine Kangaloo.

Far from a problem, this offers a unique opportunity for the sitting president to confer with her successor and suitable legal counsel to ensure that when Ms Kangaloo takes office, she can make a useful input in a discussion that demands both sober discourse and a solutions-focused attitude at the highest levels of governance.


"Blaming the DPP"

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