Fines for ganja, not jail

“The work-plan that I have has a number of objectives,” he says in an interview at a conference room of the UK High Commission, St Clair. “The devil is in the detail. What I want to be able to do at the end of three years is to say the legacy of my period here can be demonstrated in the different processes that will be in place in the police, the Judiciary.” His card describes him as the Crown Prosecution Service Criminal Justice Adviser to Trinidad and Tobago, a post which is as a result of a joint partnership with the governments of Trinidad and Tobago, Canada and his native UK.

Though Robinson has been here for three months, he already has a lot of advice to offer and envisions key steps which must be taken to reform the beleaguered criminal justice system.

“I have a work-plan which involves trying to make sure the Judiciary implements criminal procedure rules which will help manage the flow of cases in the courts,” he says. “As you are aware, there are such backlogs that you can be on remand in custody for year after year after year awaiting trial and that’s a significant problem.” He notes 90 percent of cases are dealt in the Magistrates Court, where some of the greatest delays exist.

One proposal Robinson says he will be making relates to reducing the number of drug possession cases which go to court.

“It could be that we could say if someone is caught in the street with a joint of cannabis that could be dealt with by way of an on-the-spot fine or something of that nature, rather than dragging each and every one of those people to the police station and charging them, prosecuting them, taking them through court, particularly when the forensic science service faces the challenges it does, and it can take weeks, months, years to process whether a cigarette actually had cannabis in it,” the lawyer says.

“One of the things I will be saying to whoever is in power after September 7 is think carefully about what you prosecute.

The great opportunity we have here is to pass fresh legislation to put something in place which will allow such a change. I will certainly be asking whether this measure is something that will be considered.

The courts are overworked, over-burdened.

There is no other logical solution.” Robinson continues, “It’s about the use of court space. Court is an incredibly expensive, time-consuming place to resolve a dispute.

You either say we want to deal with everything so you make the courts enormous and you pay for that. Or you limit the kinds of cases coming into the magistrates’ court.

Rather than taking (marijuana possession) suspects to the police station, the police officer has the discretion to say I am going to issue you with a fixed penalty notice. You either pay now or you chose to take the matter to court.”


"Fines for ganja, not jail"

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