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National Prosecution Service (NPS) to be set up in SVG

National Prosecution Service (NPS) to be set up in SVG

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A National Prosecution Service (NPS), in which prosecutorial matters will fall solely under the Director of Public Prosecutions, will soon be established in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

This was disclosed by Director of Public Prosecutions Colin Williams in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday, June 22.

Williams said that some people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines believe that policemen have a right to be prosecutors. This, he said, is not true.

“Prosecution has always been the province of the DPP….A policeman could only prosecute if the DPP authorises him to prosecute; that is the law of SVG,” Williams explained.

According to the DPP, the practice here of Commissioners of Police assigning policemen to prosecute has existed partly because DPPs have not stood their ground, so Commissioners have been doing as they like, in terms of assigning persons to prosecute.

“That era is now at an end…Apart from the Lawyers in the Office of the DPP, what we are going to have is a case where police officers who prosecute in the Magistrates’ Courts, they will be brought into the NPS in the beginning, to get it up and running, but ultimately, no police officers will be prosecuting, only those employed at the NPS,” Williams disclosed.

Williams revealed that approval has already been received from the Executive here in SVG to go ahead and set up the NPS.

He said countries such as St Lucia have been operating a NPS for years, and in those countries, all prosecutors fall under the direct control of the DPP.

The DPP noted that there are 5 countries in the Caribbean which cannot conceptualise a police prosecutor.

“…Jamaica, a policeman can’t say he prosecuting there. That is just an alien concept to them. Prosecutors prosecute and that is what prosecutors should be doing,” he added.

“Police Officers are there to keep the peace and to investigate matters. They are not prosecutors; but in our system, we have adapted and allowed policemen to prosecute in certain circumstances.”

The DPP explained that there is no special thing about being a police officer that qualifies one to be a prosecutor. Stressing further, Williams said the law provides for the DPP to designate somebody to prosecute.

“The DPP, for example, could designate Jim Jones to act as a prosecutor. It doesn’t have to be a police officer. Anybody can be designated by the DPP to prosecute in Magistrate’s court,” Williams said.

Progress has already been made in setting up the NPS, with documents having already been forwarded, outlining how the project is going to work. Williams outlined that meetings have already been held with the police high command and other stakeholders regarding the establishment of the NPS.

A handful of police officers have already given indication to the Commissioner of Police (COP) that they are interested in becoming prosecutors with the NPS, Williams said. The selection process will involve a training session with the interested persons, and those found most appropriate will be selected.

In the case of police officers who already serve as prosecutors, they, too, will be required to apply and go through the same training regimen as other hopefuls.

“What we intend to do is sign an agreement with the police force to provide the manpower to give us the first couple years to get the NPS up and going. When proper allocation of funding and housing are worked out, it would be up to these police officers to make a decision and take an option. Do I want to remain in the police force or join the NPS?” Williams explained.

Police officers who decide to stay in the local constabulary will be under the command of the police in terms of their policing functions. However, once they are doing prosecutorial functions, they fall under the command and direction of the DPP.

“…What they (police) do in court, they are not accountable to the Commissioner of Police, they are accountable to the DPP. Some persons mistakenly think the COP can question a prosecutor’s decision. No! that is not so, they can question police officers in terms of their policing action,” Williams clarified.

The DPP said the distinction between policing and prosecuting must be drawn.

“The lines are blurred in some jurisdictions and it has led some persons to misunderstand….There isn’t any such thing as a police prosecutor, it’s a prosecutor who is a policeman,” he added.

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