Senator and lawyer suggests shift in the powers of the DPP to the NPS
Senator Kay Bacchus-Baptiste has submitted that perhaps the time has come for the awesome power of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to be vested in a Service like the National Prosecution Service (NPS).
Bacchus-Baptiste was applauding the effort in the formation of the NPS as it was launched last Wednesday, in the halls of the House of Assembly. She delivered her hopes, and the hopes of the New Democratic Party(NDP) for the NPS’ success.
The Senator, who was representing the Leader of the Opposition Dr Godwin Friday, noted that the Constitution of St Vincent and the Grenadines(SVG), specifically section 63, gives the Director of Public Prosecutions full control over public prosecutions.
She/He can, according to Bacchus-Baptiste, institute criminal proceedings against any person, for any offence, take over and continue the proceedings, as well as terminate the case.
She further stated that the powers of the DPP are to the exclusion of any other person or authority, including the National Prosecution Service.
“And so, since the law has not been altered, the ultimate power still rests with the DPP, not necessarily the NPS,” she commented.
However, in light of the “very laudable” mission and vision statement of the NPS, “Now maybe the time has come, to vest this awesome power in a service like the NPS,” the lawyer submitted.
The mission statement, which she read, says that the NPS seeks “To support and advance the criminal justice system in St Vincent and the Grenadines, through a professional and dynamic national prosecution service which effectively represents the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, with integrity, and impartiality in all criminal justice processes.”
The vision statement reads, “to establish the national prosecution service of St Vincent and the Grenadines as a model institution, driven by entrenched values, technological innovations, legislative reform, and other transformative initiatives, that promote human rights, democracy, peace, the rule of law, and justice for all.”
Another area that Bacchus-Baptiste turned her attention to was the presence of a backlog in the courts.
“I remember the time when there was just one DPP, prosecuting all the matters in the assizes,” she recalled, and when the assizes would sit three times a year for limited periods, which caused a backlog.
“Now we have maybe six or so members, lawyers, trained, who represent the DPP, the assizes sit continuously, except of course the court vacation, but the backlog still remains,” because of the amount of cases that are coming to the court, she said.
She recommended that, now there are trained lawyers prosecuting in the Magistrate’s court, more matters go before the Magistrate’s court level.
“Because up to now I still have cases which are four and five years old that cannot be heard yet in the criminal courts, and this is because of the great backlog,” she said.
The Senator also asked that the prosecution be more forthcoming with disclosure of evidence to the defense before trials. Right now, they do get disclosure, she said, but there is a significant delay due to the process followed. The veteran lawyer recommends there be an almost automatic disclosure for trials.