Recent practice directions
Practice directions constitute an integral part of the practices in our legal system. They are produced to carry out the Courtâs objective to update and expand the law. I have written before on practice directions produced for the Eastern Caribbean States and territories. Under 4.1, the Chief Justice is the person designated to make practice directions. Pursuant to 4.2 of CPR 2000, the Chief Justice may issue directions for the cases where provisions are made for them and such direction as to the practice and procedures followed in the Supreme Court. The practice direction must be published in the Governmentâs Gazette in each state or territory in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court jurisdictions. These could also be accessed on the website of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.
Prison Video Link
The most recent practice direction is NO. 2 of 2014, which makes provisions for prison video link (PVL). This is pursuant to the section 340 of Cap 272 of the laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines (2009). The purpose is to establish video links between the prison and the Court in criminal matters, in order to have testimony from prisoners who are on remand in prison. This would provide some relief for the prison officers who have to transport remand prisoners to and from prison. However, the provision would only be introduced where the administrative facilities are available. There would have to be a deliberate effort of the authorities to finance and to set up the required facilities for the implementation of the directions.
Judge has to decide whether to use or not
The video link will not be used in every case that is before the court and the video link need not be in regular use. The judge or magistrate must make the decision about using the procedure and there would have to be consent from the parties involved. The judge must take into account the nature of the matter, that is, what the case involves. The judge with knowledge of the case and other circumstances would have to make this decision. He has to consider the likely impact PVL would have on the defendant and his attorney, whether it would impact adversely on the constitutional rights of the defendant. The judge must take into consideration the ability of the defendant to comprehend the proceedings and to participate effectively.
Necessities for PVL
For operation of this system there must be an “instructions suiteâ on site at the courtroom where communication would be made via private telephone lines with the defendant.
The Practice Direction provides for the appointment of a “court PVL coordinator,â who would be a court officer designated to make the necessary arrangement for the video link on the court side and for a “prison PVL coordinator,â who would be a prison officer to make the necessary arrangement on the prison side. A court in which video link is used would exercise the normal procedure involving the ordinary protocols of the court and at certain point would have the testimony from the defendant in prison.
Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
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