Attorney General Reginald Armour – File photo
THE Criminal Bar Association (CBA) is calling on Attorney General Reginald Armour to address the concerns raised by attorneys at the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and retract his statement about the office under-performing.
In a media release on Thursday, the CBA, led by Israel Khan, SC, said rather than criticising the DPP, Armour should be alleviating the problems by providing more staff.
“The CBA expresses its disappointment and disapproval with the current response of the AG who instead of accepting the bona fide complaints of staff shortages in the DPP office, has dismissed such complaints…,” it said.
The association’s call comes the day after some 16 attorneys delivered a two-page letter to Armour’s secretary demanding an apology. They dropped off the letter moments after DPP Roger Gaspard met with Armour for about three hours at Armour’s office on Richmond Street, Port of Spain.
In their letter they described the magnitude of their workload and the toll it takes on them both physically and emotionally.
They added that the comment further erodes public confidence in the DPP’s office.
On March 11 Armour issued a statement via WhatsApp saying the DPP’s office was under-performing.
The comment was in response to Gaspard, who days earlier said his office has 58 attorneys, some with little or no court experience, and was hamstrung by “an acute and chronic” staff shortage, affecting its ability to prosecute cases in all courts.
Armour said: “That is an unsatisfactory explanation for under-performance of the DPP. Other critical arms of the criminal justice system are also operating below capacity, yet far more effectively. We need to critically examine what are the systemic issues that are hampering the performance of the DPP’s office.”
In the media release titled “Criminal Bar Association (CBA) calls on AG to retract statement that DPP attorneys are under-performing,” the association said it took note of the mounting demands on the DPP’s attorneys and called on defence attorneys to support their colleagues particularly when they ask for adjournments to better prepare their cases.
It also warned, “The CBA wishes to warn the Attorney General that if the DPP’s concerns are not addressed it is likely that the entire criminal justice trial system may grind to a halt, which would result in millions of public funds being wasted on judges, masters, public defenders but with no trials to do as the DPP attorneys will be unable to perform their duties due to limited resources.”
It said while there have been increased appointments of judicial officers and a Public Defender’s Office created, there has been no corresponding strengthening of the DPP’s office, resulting in an overbearing weight of increased work in High Court criminal trials, which is now “crushing the limited number of attorneys at the DPP’s office.”