– computerised link between DPP Chambers and police stations by year end
In keeping with the plan to replace preliminary inquiries with paper committals, training of police ranks in the taking of proper statements will commence this week.
This was disclosed by Project Coordinator of the Modernisation of Justice Administration Systems, Justice Claudette Singh, during a seminar last Friday. The modernisation programme is aimed at building partnership for a successful justice administration sector.
Speaking to journalists and other participants of the seminar, Justice Singh noted that the training or retraining of detectives in the art of taking proper statements is very important if the paper committal system is to work effectively.
Under the paper committal system, a Magistrate can commit an accused person to stand trial in the high court for an indictable offence, using the statements obtained instead of going through a Preliminary Inquiry where witnesses have to testify in a long drawn out procedure.
According to Justice Singh, if statements are not properly taken the system would be ineffective since Defence Attorneys would make hash of the prosecution forcing the Director of Public Prosecution to ultimately revert to the preliminary inquiry.
For example, for a paper committal to be successful in the case of murder, statements will have to include detailed facts such as light and proper identification, which are usually obtained by the court during the taking of evidence.
This will help the Magistrate to determine if a prima facie case has been made out against an accused to commit him to stand trial.
It was noted that in many cases, statements taken by the police do not include some facts that would make paper committals easy, hence the need for the training.
Already there have been a few successful paper committals so far since the system was introduced with the passage of legislation late last year.
The training comes under the Modernisation of Justice Administration Systems, which is funded through a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank.
Reforms within the High Court and the Ministry of Legal Affairs form an integral part of the project.
According to Justice Singh, the High Court component is examining ways to reduce the backlog of cases so as to minimise the delays in court trials.
The High Court is also introducing a file management system in the registry, as well as automatic speech recording system, since at present judges write their notes in long hand.
In relation to the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Justice Singh said that among the reforms being undertaken are the reorganisation of the DPP Chambers; law revision; updating the law reports and drafting civil and criminal procedural laws.
“According to the justice reform strategy, it is not internationally the best practice that police should prosecute and investigate crime at the same time. At present the DPP relies heavily on Police Prosecutors for the prosecution of Preliminary Inquiries and summary offences in the Magistrate’s Court,” Justice Claudette Singh explained.
She added that it is the objective of the project that Police Prosecutors should be phased out in the prosecution of narcotics and indictable matters.
“It was the observation of the consultants who are presently involved in the reorganisation, that the Chambers do not have the full quota of prosecutors, and until this problem is remedied, it is being suggested that the DPP takes over the Police Prosecutors, so these Prosecutors would only function as prosecutors proper and not in their core functions as investigators,” Justice Singh said.
She added that there are three Police Prosecutors attached to the DPP Chambers.
She revealed by the end of this year, the DPP Chambers would be refurbished and computerised, linking it to central networking Brickdam to which all police stations in the country would be linked.
“This should facilitate the movement of files and information to the DPP Chambers,” Justice Singh told the seminar.
Last Friday’s seminar on building partnerships for a successful justice administration sector was facilitated by Public Relations Specialists Adreyanna Thomas and Duane Pratt, and was attended by several officials from Government ministries, the private sector and civil society.
It was designed to build the capacity of members of the public, private, civil society and justice sectors in Guyana on building, managing and sustaining partnerships, with the intention of rebuilding trust in the administration of justice system.
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