Chief Justice Ivor Archie – FILE PHOTO/ROGER JACOB
THE controversy surrounding staff shortages and other issues at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) escalated on Friday with Chief Justice Ivor Archie accusing Roger Gaspard, SC, of negligence in the discharge of aspects of his function.
In a six-page statement posted on the Judiciary’s Facebook page and website, Archie broke his silence on the simmering issue, saying he felt compelled to address what he called the misconceptions that are being peddled in the public domain about the role of the DPP’s office in relation to the criminal justice system.
The statement came three days after Gaspard’s meeting with Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, at the latter’s Richmond Street, Port of Spain office, to discuss issues relating to the operations of the DPP’s office.
The meeting came after Armour issued a comment on March 11, saying that the DPP was underperforming.
The Criminal Bar Association has since taken Armour to task over his statement and called on him to apologise to the DPP. Prosecutors have also called on the AG to apologise for his statement.
It argued the criminal justice trial system could be severely impacted if Gaspard’s concerns were not addressed.
In his statement on Friday, Archie, among other things, accused Gaspard of failing to suggest names and appraisals for prosecutors to be promoted and of failing to indicate the need to fill vacancies in his department.
Archie, who is the administrative head of the Judiciary and chairman of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, claimed the DPP’s perceived inaction has also resulted in his failure to file indictments in a timely manner.
He said in the five years that the Children’s Court has been in operation, not a single indictment has been filed by the DPP in that court.
Archie also dismissed Gaspard’s view that at least 150 attorneys were required to supervise the criminal courts.
He said the suggestion simply was not viable.
“I cannot say that I am at all convinced and so I must express concern at the insistence by the DPP on the level of staffing before moving agreeing to move forward to accept any change that may give relief to the criminal justice system,” he said.
Gaspard in a radio interview on March 8, claimed the criminal justice system could collapse if vacancies at the DPP’s office were not filled.
On March 9, the Prime Minister on a political platform criticised the DPP for his failure to move into a building rented by the government since 2020 to relocate the DPP’s office to East Port of Spain. Prosecutors said the building has remained unoccupied because of security issues identified by the police Special Branch and rejected a directive of the Attorney General to relocate immediately.