And opposition lawmaker has welcomed the launch of the National Prosecution Service but noted that it does not reduce the constitutional power of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP).
Speaking on behalf of Opposition Leader Godwin Friday at last Wednesday’s launch, Senator Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, a lawyer, noted that section 63 of the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines gives power over all prosecutions to the DPP
She noted that the DPP may delegate these powers to persons who must follow the DPP’s instructions and that these powers are to the exclusion of any other person or authority.
“And this includes the NPS,” Bacchus-Baptiste said, adding, “so, since the law has not been altered, the ultimate powers still rest with the DPP, not necessarily the NPS.”
She, however, said that the mission and vision statements of the NPS are “very laudable”, adding, “Now, maybe the time has come to vest this awesome power in a service like the NPS but, of course, as I said, this will call for an amendment to the Constitution.”
Bacchus-Baptiste gave an example, saying that in England, the 1985 Prosecution Offences Act, which created the Crown Prosecution Service, has the DPP as its head and the DPP is responsible for prosecution, but he owes his responsibility also to the attorney general, who, in turn is responsible to parliament.
Some of the key duties of the CPS are advising the police in all cases for possible prosecution, determining the charge in all cases, except very minor cases, preparing cases for court, presenting cases in court and appointing private lawyers to present cases in court, the senator said.
“So I expect that the main responsibility of our NPS should be to provide legal advice to the police pertaining to criminal investigations and to conduct prosecutions.”
This will presume that the NPS should be made up of mainly lawyers and should also advise on charges, she said, adding that it is not advisable for police to investigate and lay charges and prosecute.
“So I commend the NPS for separating that function, for advising the police of what charges they should lay and for actually undertaking the prosecution.”
Bacchus-Baptiste said she remembers the time when the DPP prosecuted all matters in the assizes at a time when the assizes sat only for three times a year for limited periods.
She said there was a great backlog of cases.
Now, there are about six lawyers who represent the DPP, the assizes sit continually, expect fort the court vacation but the backlog still remains.
“This is because of the amount of criminal matters we have coming to our courts. I would recommend that more matters be taken before the magistrate’s court to reduce the backlog and to reduce the burden that comes to the assizes.
“And with these trained lawyers now prosecuting, because before, prosecutors were only police in the magistrate’s court, a way to enhance the work of the NPS and to serve Vincentians might be to put more cases, according to the law, of course, into the magistrate’s court and reduce the backlog.
“Because up to now, I still have cases, some of them which are four and five years old, that cannot be heard yet in the criminal courts and this is because of the great backlog.”
Bacchus-Baptiste also argued that the NPS be more forthcoming with disclosure.
“Because, currently, we do get disclosure, but lawyers have to write and it takes time for the letter to get to the DPP and [for] the DPP to respond and this can contribute to time-wasting and delay. So, I recommend there be also an automatic disclosure before trials which would speed up matters.”
One reads here what the good lady has to say, but should the NDP win the next General election, will their administration implement the changes that she is now here advocating or will they prevaricate with a semblance of weasel words just like this ruling ULP Gonsalves extended family dictatorship? Reneging on of their 2001 election commitments and all of the promises that they had made before all subsequent elections since 2001?
In particular, the principal of those promises being that of the FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL, so vigorously promoted by the ULP and which is yet to see the light of day, because the ULP’s Gonsalves extended family dictatorship, in its wisdom, do not think it fitting for the populace of SVG to have insight into what their administration does.
Indeed, it is the habit of a wayward political party like the ULP, to promise one thing on the eve of an election but yet to do another, once in office. Such deceitful practises are done on the assumption that the electorate has very short memories. So will the NDP join their ranks?
The worst of the excesses tends to take place under those so-called elected dictatorships, if we can ever call them elected, because of the numerous practises they employ to gain office, the same as we now see in Nicaragua and Venezuela, SVG and the likes of Zimbabwe.
Once in office wayward political leaders often behave as if they are medieval Kings. Live and rule never to die! However thank God that all men dies, though it often takes years for the bad that they have perpetrated to be righted! As William Shakespeare puts it; quote, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones”.
A case in point is that of Robert Mugabe, “Robert Mugabe, 95, looks weak and frail alongside his favourite son in stark new images of the former dictator two years after he was forced from power. Stark images showing former Zimbabwe president and dictator Robert Mugabe looking weak and frail alongside his ‘favourite son’ have emerged on social media in the country”.
No matter what his reasons were, the rule of Law and all civil strictures disintegrated in Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe’s rule, despite his numerous promises to the populace to safeguard civil liberties there.
And for now on eighteen years here in SVG, as with existing Venezuela, and Zimbabwe before us, we have also witnessed the steady disintegration of the rule of law, the rubbishing of parliamentary and civil structures, as the dictatorship accrue unto itself rights and privileges, at the expense of our weak populace.
So will the NDP publicly commit itself to the changes that she is advocating, in addition to giving us good democratic Government, and to promote and respect proper democratic institutions in SVG?
The NDP could commence by also committing to giving us “an elected Town Board” for the capital, Kingstown!
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