New bill reclassifies Trinidad and Tobago’s law courts

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Attorney General Reginald Armour SC. – File photo

THE Senate passed a bill piloted on Friday by Attorney General Reginald Armour which reclassifies the geographical designation of TT’s law courts, the Miscellaneous Provisions (Administration of Justice) Bill 2023.

“We are taking the courts to the people,” Armour said.

He said the bill would improve people’s ease of access to justice.

It amends the Supreme Court of the Judicature Act 1962, whose section 74(1) said High Court sittings for civil and criminal trials shall be held at “Port-of-Spain, San Fernando, Scarborough and any other place” in TT designated at certain times by the Chief Justice. The bill designates the new zones as North Trinidad, South Trinidad and Tobago.

The new bill defines North Trinidad as “the City of Port-of-Spain, the Boroughs of Arima, Chaguanas and Diego Martin and the Municipalities of San Juan / Laventille, Tunapuna/Piarco and Sangre Grande.”

South Trinidad consists of the City of San Fernando, the Boroughs of Point Fortin and Siparia, and the Municipalities of Couva/Tabaquite/ Talparo, Penal/Debe, Princes Town and Mayaro/ Rio Claro.

“’Tobago’ consists of the island of Tobago.”

The bill says a trial must be held in the same zone where it is committed, that is North Trinidad, South Trinidad or Tobago.

The bill (section 4(b)13) allows trials to be held outside of these zones in certain circumstances.

“In circumstances where an offence occurred virtually, a specific physical location cannot be established for an offence or it is otherwise in the interest of justice, the Director of Public Prosecutions may exercise a discretion to file an indictment at a designated Registry of the Supreme Court for the Criminal Court Division in North Trinidad, South Trinidad and Tobago and in exercising the discretion.”

The old act had said suspects committed within the counties of St George, St David and St Andrew or within the wards of Chaguanas and Cunupia in the County of Caroni for trial for any offence shall be tried at Port-of-Spain. Persons committed in Victoria, St Patrick, Nariva and Mayaro or within the Wards of Couva and Montserrat in the County of Caroni for trial for any offence shall be tried at San Fernando, the old act had said.

“All persons committed within the Ward of Tobago for trial for any offence shall be tried in Tobago.”

The act added that if a judge was satisfied that a fair trial cannot be had at San Fernando or in Tobago, he may order that the trial take place at Port-of-Spain.

The bill also amended the Criminal Procedure Act 1925 to allow courts to hold trials by a hybrid mode whereby court proceedings are held “in part by virtual mode.”