De Peiza: ‘We have to be fair on both sides’
A local attorney and legislator has slammed the criminal justice system here, saying it did not work.
Speaking last night during a panel discussion on crime and violence in the community, Government Senator Verla De Peiza said a lot was wrong with the criminal justice system and the civil justice system was not much better.
“Could we please have a process that works?” De Peiza told the audience which included fellow senator David Durant and former Minister of Social Transformation Hamilton Lashley.
“I am satisfied having worked in Barbados since 1996 in this field that our criminal justice system does not work. I would go so far to say the civil justice system is not too far behind it.”
Insisting that she was not exaggerating, the lawyer and politician complained of a bungling criminal justice process which resulted in persons being held for up to seven years on remand without a hearing and “not a note of evidence has been laid” against the accused.
Yet, she contended, it was not very difficult to fix the system, suggesting that part of the solution lay with the police. De Peiza argued that all the law enforcement officers needed to do was to present the evidence which was relied upon to file the charge, to facilitate an early hearing.
“There must be something that the police already possess in order to get to the point of charge. Why can’t those documents be laid and delivered at the point of charge?
“Then at least we can have something started.”
She dismissed as ineffective, preliminary inquiries to determine whether there was sufficient evidence for a court trial, stating that the “harsh reality” was that she could recall only one matter being thrown out by a magistrate at the preliminary inquiry stage.
“If it is that we are going to have a situation where almost 100 per cent of the matters that are on preliminary inquiry are going forward to the High Court, why do we have a preliminary inquiry system?
“Move straight to the High Court and have the matter heard before a judge and jury.”
De Peiza also apparently took issue with the positions adopted by both Durant and Acting Attorney General Michael Lashley.
Lashley this week called for a mandatory 100-day wait before gun offenders are considered for bail, while Durant, speaking at the opening of last night’s discussion, called for the denial of bail for those accused of murder.
De Peiza reminded the audience that an accused was innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, and called for fairness.
“At the point of being charged none of these persons is guilty of anything. And the same way that you would expect to be treated to the courts, you have to extend that to all. So because they are charged does not mean that they are guilty. A process has to be followed through.
“We have to be fair on both sides . . . the victims and the persons who are accused. They are not convicted yet and we cannot treat them like criminals. It is not fair to them,”