RAJAE ALI, accused of murder, and Vicky Boodram, accused of fraud, were two of the high-profile cases heard in court on Friday amid the roll-out of video-conferencing facilities, Attorney-General Faris Al-Rawi told Newsday. He said Ali remained at the Golden Grove prison while participating in his hearing by video-link.
In all, some 27 remand matters were heard, Al-Rawi said. The video-conferencing went “smoothly and effortlessly,” the AG added.
The AG explained the video court hearings were beyond the mere idea of providing a link from a central courthouse to a defendant at a distant prison, but rather all parties could join in the hearing from the location of their choice.
“Judges can be at home or in their chambers,” he said. “Lawyers can be at home or in their office.” Al-Rawi said he had been working arduously to get 12 courts to go “live.” He rebuffed social media criticisms of Amalgamated Security which provides prison transport for $25 million a year. “Amalgamated has been extremely efficient. They have reduced their cost. They perform a phenomenal aspect of work.”
This had entailed years of planning plus the passage of enabling legislation such as the Criminal Proceedings Rules and the Rules of Evidence. “It was not by mistake,” he added.
Otherwise, Al-Rawi said the cases of about 600 inmates are being processed for application for possible release from prison to ease overcrowding amid the covid19 pandemic. These are almost 100 applicants for bail and more than 500 applicants for pardon. He said data is being collected on the 100 bail cases whose applications will then proceed. Regarding the 500-plus applicants for pardon, the AG said, “Check-listing is in the final stage. We will approach the Mercy Committee in the next couple days.”
He said the exercise has involved talks amongst the Chief Public Defender, Director of Public Prosecutions, police service and judiciary.