August 9, 2020

The Editor speaks: Outstanding indictments

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Colin Wilson

I commence my Editorial today with the following statement from Chief justice Anthony Smellie’s Report to the Opening of the Courts last January 16th:

“On the subject of case disposal, I begin by reference to the alarmingly high number of outstanding indictments, which, despite the standard time to disposal of six months mentioned by , are about to overwhelm the system. 147 indictments were carried over from last year. This is the largest number ever carried over and 20 more than the 127 carried over to 2018. The number of indictments concluded, at 71, was about on par with previous years but when taken with the ever increasing numbers which are filed each year, explain the unrelenting increase of the backlog.”

, , obtained the following information from the Judiciary by asking them some questions.

After querying the first results he obtained these are the amended figures with his original questions:

Question

Total number of outstanding warrant of arrest for Traffic and Criminal Cases (as of 16/1/2019)?
1037

Total number of outstanding warrant of arrest older than 5 years (Traffic & Criminal)?
Answer 123

Total number of outstanding warrant of arrest older than 10 years. (Traffic and Criminal)?
Answer 604

Polack told me:

“The recurring decimal of non-performance by the Portfolio of Legal Affairs and the Attorney-General culminated recently with the annual self-patting on backs at the recent Grand Court opening while there has been an alarming increase of indictments and a doubling of outstanding warrants nearly a thousand of which are over ten years old.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs [Chief Officer named] stand idly by while our society slowly crashes into a wall with an inept government at the steering wheel.

“There will be no future cruise or financial industry if realistic steps are not taken to remedy the administration of our system of justice instead of the periodic paper dressing of hollow legislation and piecemeal review.”

In an article published on CNS it stated:

“The police’s battle with outstanding warrants is getting worse. According to the latest figures released by the courts to a local defence attorney Monday, 1,006 warrants have been issued to people who have failed to appear for either criminal or traffic cases in the court, and there are another 378 for unpaid fines. Last November, the police said they were dealing with a backlog of over 700 warrants, but as fast as they were able to round up offenders, more warrants were being issued.”
And:

“Local defence attorney Peter Polack, who requested the latest growing warrant statistics, said the figure reflects the failure of the under-resourced court system, which is issuing the warrants and then relying on the police to act on them.”

My query is why are the police having to do this? Why is this additional burden placed upon them?

Surely this is a waste of their specialised manpower that could be given to someone else who doesn’t need all the training a police officer has?

I can vouch for an instance of a warrant issued that was supposedly removed by the judicial system, because it should never have been issued in the first place, and despite written assurances it had been removed from the system, it wasn’t.

Three times police officers called to make the arrest and three times they were advised that it had been removed.

It took an appearance by the vicim at the court to show all documentation and for a judge to finally remove it.

Now how much did all that time cost?

It shouldn’t be difficult to discover if someone has an outstanding warrant by a simple computer entry that shows up at the airport immigration counter when anyone leaves the country.

My hope is someone will now take the time to deal with the whole matter as this will not only save time in the long run but fill the governments’ coffers. There will come a time when they won’t be so overflowing with money.

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