Saint Lucia’s Head of State, Dame Pearlette Louisy, has acknowledged that there is a need for the overhaul of the criminal justice system, something her government is committed to doing.
The Governor General said that her government has heard the widespread concerns over the number of remand prisoners at the Bordelais Correctional Facility (BCF) and have taken steps to address the issue.
Dame Pearlette Louisy said over the past several weeks, the judiciary has made a determined effort to reduce the number of remand prisoners, especially with the hiring of an additional judge.
She revealed that that judge was able to dispose of 43 matters by the end of March, 2016.
And recently, government agreed to finance the appointment of a fourth judge to the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court for a period of six months, to work exclusively on remand cases.
“These measures notwithstanding, my government believes that the criminal justice system requires an overhaul. If the system is broken, we must fix it,” she stated.
But the Governor General also admitted that despite past efforts by government, to improve the criminal justice system, it has not yielded any substantial benefits.
She said despite a bold step was taken to establish a Criminal Division of the Supreme Court, and enact a new Criminal Code and a new Evidence Act, she questioned whether these initiatives have shown improvements.
“Are we delivering justice in criminal cases in full accordance with our constitutional prescriptions? What explains the high number of remand cases? Are we unwittingly allowing defense counsel in criminal cases to exploit loopholes or weaknesses in the design of the procedures to frustrate the delivery of justice in criminal matters? These are burning questions.”
In an effort to address these combined issues, Dame Pearlette Louisy said government will review the structure and operations of the criminal justice system.
A team of experts will be appointed to conduct a comprehensive review of the system. The team will focus on local laws, both substantive and procedural on the structure, and the staffing of the system.
“We must ensure that our citizens are satisfied that they have a system that is fair, just and efficient,” she added.
At the end of 2015, the remand population at the Bordelais Correctional Facility was at 353 persons with 297 before the High Court while 58 were before the Magistrates Court.
This represented a 9 percent decrease of individuals on remand from 2014.