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I expect the law of the land will be fully and properly applied


The magistracy as we know it may soon cease to exist in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and if that happens, this country’s Prime Minister could not be happier.{{more}}

At a press conference earlier this week, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves spoke of plans for the establishment of District Court Judges to replace Magistrates, along with other recommendations suggested by consultants to the OECS.

These recommendations for the reform of the Magistracy have met Dr Gonsalves’ approval.

“I am ready to roll,” he said, adding that he broadly supports all the recommendations.

The Prime Minister said that he has always felt that Magistrates were not properly supervised.

According to him, Magistrates have been able to fit into a loophole between the domestic executive authority through the Attorney General, and the regional Judicial and Legal Service Commission, headed by the Chief Justice.

Dr Gonsalves said that if the position of District Court Judge were established, it would attract persons who would be paid higher salaries.

The Prime Minister, who also has responsibility for Legal Affairs, said that since he was in Opposition, he held the view that the Magistracy needed to be regionalized; even as the question of the Caribbean Court of Justice was being deliberated.

Dr Gonsalves said that in his first address to CARICOM, he highlighted the need for a reform of the Magistracy.

That’s why the steps being taken by the OECS are getting his full support, he said.

“If they want to use St Vincent as a guinea pig operation in that regard, I am prepared to do so,” Dr Gonsalves said, as he acknowledged that various steps, including the passing of various pieces of legislation in the individual OECS territories, had to be taken, to make the recommended Magistracy structure operational.

One of the problems he identified in the Magistracy in its current form is that of punctuality and productivity, observations he made during his days as a lawyer.

Hence the need, he contends, for the framework for proper accountability to be put in place.

Recently, Dr Gonsalves had been critical of a few judgments handed down by some Magistrates here, accusing them of not following the wishes of the legislators.

Especially upsetting to him, he pointed out in Parliament last week, were some questionable, lenient sentences handed down to persons who had been found guilty on guns and ammunitions offences.

He lamented that while his government had taken steps to increase the penalty for gun related crimes significantly, some culprits have been getting off with slaps on the wrists.

Dr Gonsalves said, as he has often stated, that he was not referring to any particular Magistrate, seeing that there is a clear separation between the Judiciary and the Executive.

He also noted that any decision made by the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal judgments made in court is entirely at his (the DPP’s) discretion, as the office of the DPP is an independent office.

“When the police do their work, and we capture people out there, I expect that the law courts will do their work,” Dr Gonsalves, however, said earlier this week.

“I expect the law of the land will be fully and properly applied,” he said, stressing his government’s desire to see the “loopholes” in the justice system closed up.

Meanwhile, Ian Caesar of Cane Garden escaped a jail term on Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007, when Senior Magistrate Donald Browne fined him $20,000 for importing some 1,485 rounds of ammunitions without a license.

“How could a man with over a thousand rounds of ammunition or more walk free, what is so special about him, who is he?” asked Director of Public Prosecutions Colin Williams last week. This, after he forwarded appeal papers to the Magistracy, giving notice that he intends to appeal Caesar’s sentencing. (KJ)