Criminals could take advantage of differences between police and magistrates
February 19, 2007
A senior police officer is of the view that criminals are taking advantage of the differences between the police and the magistracy, and he feels that Saturday's meeting between the two sides will go a long way toward rectifying the situation.
The two sides met at the Supreme Court Library on Saturday and it is believed that the frank and forthright discussions will lend to a better working relationship between them.
According to a participant, the criminal justice system, although representing several agencies, should have the same focus and the recent occurrences have not augured well for the administration of justice.
During the meeting it was disclosed that recent arrest warrants and remanding of police ranks by magistrates for several reasons were not sending the right signals.
“Although the magistrates have their work to do, there needs to be some synchronisation. Defence lawyers capitalise on these situations,” the senior police officer said.
Magistrates had complained that some policemen approach their work in relation to court matters in a lackadaisical manner and this situation sometimes leads to a miscarriage of justice.
Absent police witnesses, they claim, lead to undue delay in trials, a situation that is frowned upon by defence attorneys.
One magistrate pointed out that there is no excuse for police witnesses not making themselves available for scheduled court proceedings.
Acting Commissioner of Police, Henry Greene reminded the meeting that most police prosecutors are required to do their normal police work in addition to their court appointed duties because of the shortage of manpower in the force.
Another area of concern is the constant delay caused by the sloth in prosecutors obtaining crime files from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
On many occasions prosecutors turn up in court and inform magistrates that they are not in a position to proceed with a matter because the file was not available.
Normally, the police would send files on criminal matters to the DPP for advice and on many occasions these files take some time before they are returned.
Acting DPP Shalimar Ali-Hack, who attended the meeting, defended her office, stating that she would normally insist that the files are returned without delay.
She had cause to write to the Commissioner of Police expressing these concerns.
She believes that a proper investigation could be done and a proper advice could be had within one month of the commencement of investigations.
It was also disclosed that some magistrates are reluctant to commence hearing other evidence before the virtual complainant in a case has testified.
The DPP rebutted this by stating that magistrates cannot determine which witnesses should testify first.
She said that the prosecutors are the ones who are presenting the case and therefore it is they who determine in what order witnesses are called to testify.
The frequent adjourning of cases by magistrates was also a concern raised by the police who are claiming that although witnesses turn up in court to give evidence, for some strange reasons the magistrates postpone the hearings much to the frustration of the witnesses.
“When this happens, witnesses sometimes do not return to testify and in most instances the cases are dismissed,” the police officer told this newspaper.
“If criminals see the police and the magistracy are at loggerheads with each other, they and their defence attorneys will take advantage,” another participant at the meeting which was chaired by Acting Chancellor Carl Singh stated.
PPP/C Member of Parliament, Anil Nandlall had stated during last week's budget debate that under the judicial reform process, drugs and other indictable matters will soon be removed from the hands of police prosecutors and would be presented by qualified attorneys from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.