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Stop fooling our people and speak the truth



Editor: I am not a lawyer. I sometimes find it difficult understanding these laws and the way they are drafted.

Sometimes when I do read through our laws, I am left wondering if the drafters of these laws had set out to confuse us. Some of them really need repealing.{{more}}

In spite of the problems I do have understanding some of these laws, I am still able to have a good understanding of this one that is causing some concern. This has to do with the amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code

With my basic understanding of things and what is happening, I can safely say that I do understand what the government is trying to do when they set about to amend the Criminal Procedure Code and the section of the law which deals with private criminal complaints.

Now, let me as an ordinary citizen with my limited understanding of this matter give my take on the changes. And when you are through reading my version, tell me if you think I understand what is going on.

Two ordinary citizens (poor people) in one of our villages in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have an altercation. Where do you think is the first place these two will want to go to get some redress? To the police of course. Not directly to the Magistrate’s Court for sure, and certainly not to a lawyer at this stage.

Now, one of them decides to report the matter to the police. The police will entertain their report, take the necessary statements from both the complainant and also their witnesses, if there were any. They will then set out to investigate the report and gather their evidence. After doing his investigations and he sees there is a case, he will then go on to file it on behalf of the complainant. Summons will be issued to all parties who have an interest in the case as to the date place and time for the hearing at the Magistrate’s Court.

Let us give this method the name public criminal complaint for a better understanding of what is to follow, in this my simple way of explaining the amendment of the criminal code as it relates to private criminal complaints.

Take note. Before the matter got to the Magistrate’s Court, it was first reported to the police. The police then did their investigations, after which, a charge was brought on behalf of the complainant. (Putting the horse before the cart). This does not cost the complainant a cent.

Now as regards the private criminal complaint. Let us suppose that the other person in the altercation decides to file a private criminal complaint against the one who went to the police. Before the law was amended, he could have gone to the Magistrate’s Court directly to file his complaint or he could have gone to a lawyer to file it on his behalf.

Poor people, think for a while now. Linton Lewis and Vynnette Frederick are both lawyers and they did not file their complaint themselves. Instead, they went to a lawyer to do so on their behalf. This process does have a cost to it. Lawyers in SVG don’t work for free.

If those two who are lawyers didn’t file their own private cases, then this should tell you poor people that it is not wise to do so either. Something to chew on. For us poor people, going to the police to lodge our complaint is less costly.

And by the way, how many of our ordinary citizens will rather go to a lawyer to have them file a private criminal complaint on our behalf? Only those who have the money or some political agenda will use that course.

Under the old law, you could have gone to the Magistrate, filed your criminal complaint and your court day is set. It was then the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) could have stepped in and taken over and made whatever decision he thought fit. (Cart before the horse). Remember in the case of going to the police, it was police first, then after their investigations, they decided whether to go court or not.

In the Private criminal case, it was court first then the DPP decided whether the case should continue or not. Have you seen the differences in both cases? In the police case, it was horse then cart. Whereas in the private criminal case it was cart then horse.

So now, with the amendment, one will have to go to the DPP first, who will investigate, and then on to the magistrate once there is a case. If he thinks there is no case, he will discontinue it. And if anyone is not satisfied with his decision, then he or she can go to the High Court to let a judge decide whether there is a case or not. And this option has been there all the time.

Now tell me, whose rights have been taken away? Not mine for sure. You can still take a private criminal case to court. This time the horse is placed before the cart and no the other way around.

So I with my limited understanding of the law and with my simple explanation, it shows that as an ordinary citizen I understand that this amendment of the Criminal Procedure Code does not take away my rights in any way, nor the rights of any other citizen. Stop fooling our people and speak the truth. This law has nothing to do with taking away anyone’s rights. As far as I see, it is just a re-arrangement of the cart and the horse. Remember I am no lawyer, and this is how I understand the whole thing as an ordinary citizen.

The people have spoken on the 13th December, 2010. The ULP won the General elections fair and square. It is time you accept your losses, get together, rethink your strategy. Regroup and prepare yourself for battle in 2015. Protesting will never help your cause. Your only legal way of getting into government is through democratic elections, constitutionally due in 2015. Wheel and come again.