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Compensate them – ‘Too many persons languishing in prison before their matters could be heard’.

Compensate them – ‘Too many persons languishing in prison before their matters could be heard’.

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Prominent attorney Kay Bacchus-Browne is calling on the authorities to put legislation in place to compensate persons whose matters sit in the court system for lengthy periods and for those who languish in prison without their matters being heard.{{more}}

On Wednesday, Bacchus-Browne said she has had clients languish in prison for more than two years and when the matter went for hearing, it was withdrawn because of lack of evidence.

“There are a number of matters where persons have been acquitted. Some of them on a no-case submission, and some without even getting to the stage of a no-case submission. The judge will just ask the prosecutors where they are going with the matter and the matter is withdrawn then…,” Bacchus said.

According to Bacchus-Browne, there are far too many persons languishing in prison before their matters could be heard.

“I had a client one time who was already admitted to the Army, but because he had a case he could not go. When the matter came to the High court it was decided by the judge that there is no evidence and the jury was asked to return a not guilty verdict in the matter,” she recalled.

That matter, Bacchus-Browne said, took four years.

“It pains me, thinking that this whole man’s life has gone down the drain and he did not get to go to join the army,” the lawyer added.

Bacchus-Browne is also of the firm view that there are some matters that should not even make their way to the High court because they are already weak.

She also called on the Director of Public Prosecutions to review some of the cases and noted that it is not every case that comes through from the Preliminary Inquiry stage that must have an automatic indictment.

“In cases like that, I think there has come a time for there to be legislation where these type of defendants are compensated by the government for all the damages. Some of them have to pay a lot of legal fees and I think they would have suffered by being in prison for a length of time…,” stated Bacchus-Browne.

“There needs to be some kind of general compensation so that these persons can fit back into society…”

Bacchus-Browne mentioned case management which is now being used in St Lucia. This new procedure she said would see the court getting rid of Preliminary Inquiries and operate on paper committals.

At the closing of the Criminal Assizes, on March 27, High Court judge Frederick Bruce-Lyle informed the court that a judges’ meeting held in St Lucia to discuss matters pertaining to case management, it is now being suggested that they case manage criminal matters.

“If the prosecution has 22 witnesses, we will find out why they have 22 witnesses and what they are going to say. Likewise for the defense. If at the end of the day, we finish the case management process and we find there is no case, then there is no trial,” he explained.

It is still, however, not clear when or if this system will be instituted in St Vincent.

Bacchus-Browne informed SEARCHLIGHT that she has been a part of meetings in which they have have seen draft copies of the new procedure.

According to Bacchus-Browne, case management will help to cut the backlog of cases before the high court and help to streamline matters.

“If we don’t do this, the list will go on and on at tax payers expense,” she said.(KW)

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