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DPP proposes trials without a jury and for an end to PIs

DPP proposes trials without a jury and for an end to PIs
Acting Director of Public Prosecutions Sejilla McDowall

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The Director of Public Prosecutions(DPP) has made a number of suggestions for changes in the justice system, including introducing judge only trials without a jury in complicated cases.

The DPP (Ag) Sejilla McDowall gave remarks at the High Court on December 13, following the close of the criminal assizes.

As this year draws to an end, the DPP indicated that the introduction of these trials is one of the changes that she would like to see next year.

“Just as we have magistrates making decisions at that lower level, the Eastern Caribbean Court could equally come on board with other jurisdictions and take the weight off the jurors when it comes to very complicated matters,” McDowall explained.

She stated that if not next year, she hopes this will come about “soon.”

Also in 2020, the chief prosecutor noted that she is looking forward to the abolition of the preliminary inquiry. The preliminary inquiries, which take place at the lower court, examine whether there is enough evidence that an accused person should stand trial at the High Court.

While calling for the abolition of the preliminary inquiries, she noted that this “would mean more work for you Justice Cottle, and more work for us as the prosecution. The entire court system would be affected.”

However, she maintained that it would be “for the benefit of all.”

Additionally, the day Criminal Procedure Rules (which regulate the practice of the court) are “finally introduced” is also anticipated by the DPP.

“And that we would have sufficiency hearings, and that the disclosure(where parties involved in a matter reveal documents related to it) that the prosecution is entitled to adhere to, would similarly be an obligation of the defense,” she commented.

Further, since the High Court, as of January 2020, will be running two criminal courts, McDowall requested that the Criminal Records Office (CRO) be “better sourced.”

To the high ranking officers present, she asked that they pass the message on the Commissioner of Police (COP).

“There have been serious challenges in coordinating so that witnesses and defendants, and defendants’ witnesses can come to this courtroom on time,” McDowall explained.

The DPP asked for additional support and reinforcement “in specific ways”, “especially a vehicle…or two, that is per-ma-nent.”

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