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Proposal before AG to amend Criminal Code of SVG

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A proposal is before Attorney General Judith Jones-Morgan and the Ministry of Legal Affairs to have the Criminal Code of St.Vincent and the Grenadines amended.{{more}}

This move is expected to limit and streamline the private criminal complaints process.

Director of Public Prosecution Colin Williams made the disclosure on Sunday, January 16, during a telephone call to a radio programme.

He informed the nation that the recommendation was put forward by his office, since last year, to have the Code amended in 2011.

Using the existing Criminal Code, over the past three years, private criminal complaints have been filed against Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and just last week, complaints were again filed against him and three of his administration’s ministers. On the two occasions private criminal complaints were filed against Gonsalves and members of his team, the charges were discontinued by Williams.

Williams explained that the Criminal Code, as it stands, creates a “parallel institution, where persons feel that there is a free-for-all, that they can just go and circumvent the lawful authorities and institute criminal proceedings.”

He said that during 2010, he made it known that the process to file criminal complaints “willy-nilly” cannot be allowed to continue.

“In other words, there is a system, we have an organized society that is structured and organized….Private criminal complaints, one might not say to eliminate it completely or absolutely, but let us exhaust. In other words, you resort to a private criminal complaint, if you have exhausted the lawful and legal channels and then there is no redress, so then you have a need to resort to asking permission to bring a private criminal complaint,” said Williams.

Williams contended that the charges advanced by the Opposition’s lawyers were not reported to the relevant authorities: the police, any investigative authority, the Office of the DPP nor the Electoral Office.

Referring to the lawyers, he said they argue: “No, we will take up a weapon [The Criminal Code] and proceed with this weapon.”

“No! That is not how the society is structured; that is not how our Constitution envisions it. The Constitution says that all matters fall within the purview of the Director of Public Prosecutions,” said Williams.

He added that the Constitution might not have stated that in order to bring a private criminal complaint it requires the fiat of the DPP. However, it explicitly states that the DPP, ultimately, is in control of all criminal proceedings.

To this end, he questioned why the lawyers representing the Opposition didn’t indicate the steps that they had already taken to have the matter ventilated, against a backdrop that nothing had become of it, and they were desirous to have it proceed by way of a criminal complaint. (HN)

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