Barbados should abolish preliminary inquiries: Lashley


A Government minister acknowledges the need for steps to be taken to ease the pressure on the Magistrate’s Courts to help cut down on the delays being experienced in the local court system.
Member of Parliament for St. Philip North, and Minister of Transport and Works, Michael Lashley, made the point on Friday evening in the House of Assembly, even as he noted that delays in the system are nothing new. However, Lashley, a trained attorney-at-law, indicated that the way of doing some things in the Magistrate’s Court setting was adding to the delays.
“The fact is, and I believe still to this day, a magistrate doing an indictable trial still has to take the notes by pen, and after each witness gives his 
evidence, still has to read over every single word, line by line, word by word to that witness, then to be signed by the witness and signed by the clerk of the court. And then you have to prepare a deposition – no use of technology, no use of a stenographer to prepare the deposition – to be ready for High Court,” said Lashley, who added, “That is coupled with the numerous delays – the availability of witnesses and lawyers too and the prosecution. And that is why I had a little difficulty… I was aiming towards the fair trial provisions.”
Lashley explained that over time the jurisdictions of the magistrates have been expanded, which he noted increased their workload. As such, he made the point that some jurisdictions have abolished preliminary inquiries to ease the load off the magistrate’s court, and is suggesting that Barbados should also go this route.
His comments came as he reiterated a call for the Community Legal Aid Scheme to be expanded, as they seek to reform the criminal justice system.
“I certainly believe, and respectfully submit that Mr. Chairman, that a person that is charged with a capital offence, who cannot afford the services of a lawyer at the private bar, and is taken into custody and is interrogated, should have access to legal advice from the State, through the Community Legal Aid Scheme, at the point of interrogation,” he said.
Lashley noted that this would not only ensure that the person’s rights are protected, but the State’s as well.
“Now might not be the time, but I believe moving forward in terms of the reforming of the criminal justice system, I certainly believe that is the way we need to go,” he maintained.
Meanwhile, referring to those persons who were on death row and recently released from Dodds Prison, and the concerns raised by the families of the victims that they were not notified of their release, Lashley said while there is no legal obligation to notify them, he hopes that in the future that such provision will be made. (JRT)

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