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St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves participating in round table discussion on violent crime in the region in Trinidad on Monday, April 17, 2023.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves participating in round table discussion on violent crime in the region in Trinidad on Monday, April 17, 2023.
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Too many judges have allowed too many lawyers who practice criminal law to control the court system under the guise of protecting the rights of the accused person, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says.

He noted at the two-day regional symposium on crime held in Trinidad this week that an accused person is, in fact, entitled, constitutionally, to the presumption of innocence and a fair trial before an independent tribunal within a reasonable time.

“… and nobody would wish to undermine any of those constitutional protections,” said Gonsalves, who is a lawyer and minister of national security and legal affairs.

“But those constitutional protections cannot and do not mean that you must take a long time over a trial and give adjournments upon adjournments and witnesses migrate and memories fade and a lot of times you’ll have to withdraw the prosecution because delay is part of the defence,” he said, adding, “And judges ought to know that.”

Gonsalves said the oxygen of the legal profession is money.

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“And lawyers use delays in the court system in order to have trials adjourned and adjourned and adjourned, and they complain how long the trial takes,” Gonsalves said, adding that he was not denying that sometimes it may be an absence of enough resources in the judicial system.

“Some persons who are not lawyers and who are Prime Minister’s may not speak the manner in which I speak. But I have to say to my brethren on the bench, they have to start control their courts again,” the told the gathering of CARICOM leaders at the regional symposium on “Violence as a Public Health Issue–The Crime Challenge”, hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago government.

“… the victims’ families, in the case of homicide, do not understand and appreciate what is happening in this regard,” Gonsalves said, adding that some criminal trials are “having the kind of a pretrial case management for one of the largest kinds of civil cases.

“When I used to practice law 30 years ago before the criminal courts, we didn’t have that sort of thing happening. But it’s taking place now. And people are complaining about these delays and rightly so.,” he said.

“And if a politician opens his mouth and says it they say you’re interfering in the independence of the judiciary. I say that justice is not a cloistered virtue. And just as I am subject to reasonable criticism, judges themselves and magistrates must be subjected to reasonable criticism.

“It is not a contempt of court so to do. If we cannot shine the light of transparency as to what goes on there and reasonableness, well, then, a lot of what we’re doing here will be rendered meaningless. And that is why the governments are seeking to address certain specific matters in this regard, without in any way encroaching on the independence of the judiciary, which is something which is very treasured.”

3 replies on “Too many judges allow lawyers to control the court system – Gonsalves”

  1. CARICOM did nothing to ensure CCJ or whatever it’s called, was created as a transparent organization. The people from different countries should be the ones who chooses the judges for the court, not politicians.
    Look at what’s happening in Israel and the US.

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