Word of this was conveyed during a December 8 press briefing by Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister, Minister of Ntional Security and Legal affairs, who indicated that he had initiated talks in this regard.
He confirmed that he had had discussions with individuals from the regional judiciary, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Sejilla Williams, the previous and present Commissioners of Police, Colin John and Enville Williams, on several proposed reforms.
“We have done some important reforms already in relation to evidence [and] procedure, but we need to do some more,” Gonsalves said.
The reference to judicial reforms came as Dr. Gonsalves addressed the government’s strategy to deal with crime.
A 14-point strategy, some of which had gone to parliament since 2003, and was amended, was being pursued since that year.
Among the proposed reforms according to Gonsalves was the extension of the time allowed to hold someone during the investigation of a serious crime.
The current time in which a suspect is allowed to be held by the authorities is 48 hours.
Dr. Gonsalves also raised the issue of Preliminary Inquiries, which he said some defense lawyers insisted on rather than having a paper committal.
“The defense may say well okay, we will go straight to trial, but a lot of times they say no, go to the preliminary inquiry,” Gonsalves explained, adding that some defense lawyers insisted on a case going to a PI for financial gain.
“They don’t want me to say this, but I know how the system works – to collect their piece of change for the PI and so on,” he said.
But maybe that right ought to be taken away from defense lawyers and let the presiding magistrate, based on the documents presented, decide if to send the matter forward to the High Court.
Implementing such a measure would mean the need for more judges because the cases would be going through the system faster, but he was okay with that.
Gonsalves also suggested not having a jury trial in matters involving murders and some other trials, and reserving the judgment to the presiding judge as another part of the judicial reform process.
He said that he knew that some individuals involved in human rights will take him to task on the last judicial proposal but he explained that he was not saying that anything else will be taken away from the procedural fairness of the trial, and that all the constitutional requisites will still be there.
“All these matters, I’m telling you that as Minister of National Security, I’m giving serious reflection upon for a public conversation because it would mean that we will be changing some fundamental ways some criminal matters have been dealt with,” Gonsalves said.