PM: Justice too slow in Trinidad and Tobago

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at Bon Air West Community Facility on Tuesday night. Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

The Prime Minister said, in the last seven years, despite the resources and priority accorded to the judiciary, he has not seen any acceleration of justice in Trinidad and Tobago.He made the statement during a Conversations with the Prime Minister at the Bon Air West Community Centre on Tuesday.

“The delivery of justice in TT is unacceptably slow. I have been PM for seven years, I have given the judiciary priority, hundreds of millions of dollars in resources, I ensured that the Parliament that was not being repaired, that it was repaired to completion, and the space the Parliament was occupying on the waterfront, we made it entirely available to the judiciary, to have 75 additional courts. We have increased the numbers of masters and judges, removed from the judicial system 100,000 plus motor car cases, we’re giving demerit points rather than going before judges and magistrates, we’ve cut hundreds of thousands of cases from the system, and I have not haven’t seen any acceleration of justice in TT.”

He said the delays were not fair to people who were languishing in Remand Yard for years waiting for their day in court.

“The Cabinet has done everything it can to facilitate it, so there must be something somewhere else. The delay in the system, the best friend of the person who has to answer a charge in court in TT is Mr Delay, delay, delay. Last week I was shocked when I saw the State going to court as prosecutor going to court to ask for an extension on a matter that has been languishing for seven years. It’s bad enough when the criminal is using the process to delay, especially if their defines is weak, and the State comes up to ask for an extension. I was astounded when a magistrate said the matter had to go on. There’s a matter that has been in preliminary hearings for over 20 years. This delay in justice in TT is hurting us in more ways than one and we have to find a way to remove that.”

Dr Rowley said this especially affects death penalty cases.

Responding to a question from the audience, he said, “We are further away from the death penalty than we were. It is not a matter for the government, the government has done what it can. Our highest court of appeal is the Privy Council, and these English ppl don’t support the existence of the death penalty.

“When the appeal is made to them, which is done automatically by anyone convicted of the most heinous crime or whatever, when it goes to our highest court, all it does is cost us millions of dollars and the Privy Council puts obstacles in our way.

“The last arrangement was that if a person is not hanged inside of five years of conviction, then it must be vitiated, and who determines that five years, the State trying to get it done or the person who is appealing? One of those appeals is to a body called the IACHR, who publicly opposes the death penalty and chastises the country for having a death penalty.”

Rowley said he expected to be criticised for making these comments. He said he would instruct Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi to tell the population about the improvements that had been made to the judicial system.