AG: Be more positive to move Trinidad and Tobago forward

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Attorney General Senator Reginald Armour contributes to debate in the Senate, Parliament, Port of Spain, on Friday. – Angelo Marcelle

ATTORNEY GENERAL Reginald Armour on Friday called for more positivity so as to move the country forward, citing improvements in TT’s system of justice that had led to quicker trials. He asked for broader confidence in a court case which took just months – instead of years – under legal changes to eliminate preliminary inquiries.

The AG was speaking in the Senate on the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) (Amendment) Bill 2024, which the Senate later passed without amendment.

In introducing the bill, he said its parent legislation, the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 – known as AJIPA – had brought relief not just to criminal suspects awaiting trial but also to their victims, and had helped communities who were awaiting a sense of closure.

The abolition of preliminary inquiries under AJIPA had been “a major reform”, he said, towards obtaining “swift and fair justice for all.”

He boasted that a current case bring tried under AJIPA was likely to be completed within six months, compared to about six-eight years or even 13 years under the old system.

Armour referenced the case in his winding-up speech.

He began saying under AJIPA, a master of the court would dispassionately weigh up documentary evidence to see if sufficient evidence existed to have a trial, instead of having a lengthy preliminary inquiry. “You have to trust your judges.”

Armour said there was no compromise on the right to a fair trial, but on the contrary an accused person would know sooner if he would stand trial or go behind bars.

He then said he was seeking a new office for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and providing him with IT.

“We can’t say we have problems so let us not initiate the innovation because the problems are too much to bear. We have to move on!

“AJIPA is in place and we are putting the systems in place and therefore I don’t accept the criticisms that there is not sufficient resources or not sufficient will on the part of this Government to work with all stakeholders to enable the judicial system, the administration of justice, to move forward.”

He referred to one senator saying they hoped the case he had mentioned, the Doodnath case, was not the exception in its hastened progress.

Armour said, “Well let’s look at life positively!” He said this was one of the first cases in court under AJIPA, coming to court in January.

“Let is take that as a signal of an optimistic passage into the future that we can do better.

“Why must we decry the first case that comes to trial – and is demonstrably being managed in a better system that has been produced by AJIPA – as well an ‘exception’ that we are not going to continue with?

“We must be positive! If we are going to move this nation forward, we must be positive.”

Independent Senator Dr Maria Dillon-Remy interrupted to ask if AJIPA would affect thousands of cases in a current backlog in court.

Armour said a master would have to do an assessment of each case to see which could move forward under AJIPA and which must stay under the old system.

“It will take some time, because each case will have to be looked at on its own merits.”