KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Director of Public Prosecution Collin Williams says some police officers still believe they can charge people without consulting his office.
He, however, believe that this will change as the nation builds a more confident prosecution service and ensure that the Constitution is followed.
“We are still into the system where charges, basically, are laid by police officers. It ought to be on the advice of the DPP’s office,” Williams said last week.
He said that some cops adopt an attitude of “charge him, let the court decide” but added, “That is not the role of a prosecutor.”
Williams was at the time discussing the Persecutors’ Code recently launched in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
He said that before charges are laid against a person, a prosecutor should consider whether there is “cogent evidence that supports the charge”.
“If you can’t get it past the halfway stage to satisfy the court that the offence was committed and this person possibly committed the offence and you have a reasonable prospect of conviction, charges ought not to be laid,” the DPP explained.
He further said that the police should not charge people simply because they are notorious or have criminal records.
“In other words, just keep a person under pressure,” Williams said.
He further said that the Prosecutors’ Code addresses prosecutor and the media, the role of prosecutors in appeals, victims and witnesses, and the issues of accepting guilty pleas.
“We had a very ad hoc system with reference to how guilty pleas were accepted but … it is now a more uniformed system and one that can be referred to in terms of how you would proceed in that area,” he explained.
The Code also speaks to the role of prosecutors in the sentencing process, especially in the High Court, where prosecutors generally left sentencing up to the judges.
Williams further said that notwithstanding the adversarial nature of the judicial system, prosecutors should not consider a conviction as a success.
“Success for a prosecutor is not in ‘winning’ a case … or getting a conviction [but] by merely ensuring that justice was done and seen to be done,” he explained.
“We need to keep the streets of justice pure because we don’t know when we ourselves, our families, our friend will run afoul of the law and we would like that they have access to justice. … You ought to have an innate sense of fair play and justice,” Williams further said.