Courts to sit at nights

Additionally, the State may opt to construct a “special court facility” similar to that established for the murder trial of Dole Chadee, Ramlogan said as he addressed a national security media briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair.

With the number of persons arrested under the state of emergency reaching 1,477 as of yesterday, a system of court sittings using existing facilities is being contemplated, Ramlogan said.

“We are considering whether we can use the existing court facilities to see whether we can double up to deal with that,” he said.

Additionally, the State could ask retired magistrates and judges to return to active duty to fill key gaps in the pool of judicial officers, he said.

Ramlogan disclosed that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Chief Justice Ivor Archie will hold a special meeting this week to deal with administrative issues relating to the state of emergency.

At the meeting, which he will also attend, parties are “to discuss potential administrative measures that can be taken,” he said.

These include the establishment of a special court to deal with firearms offences and the issue of night courts and other contemplated measures.

Ramlogan also said there may also be an increased use of video-conferencing technology to have virtual courts inside of prisons.

Of the announcement of the formulation of an amnesty for minor cases over five years old, Ramlogan noted that, that policy would remain under the full discretion of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

“This is not a new measure,” he said noting that it had been recommended by a commission of inquiry into the justice system.

“It is my hope that it will reduce some of the burdens in the system of traffic offences,” he said. “It is certainly not in the public interest that those matters (minor matters) be prosecuted.”

At the same time, the Attorney General noted that any policy will not be blanket but will depend on the circumstances of the case.

Ramlogan noted that legislation to abolish the time-consuming preliminary inquiry procedure will be tabled in Parliament as soon as possible. That legislation, he said, will “dynamite an important jam in the courts.”

Other legislation that is to be given urgent priority, he said, includes a new DNA Act to revamp the other legislative scheme. He noted plans, outlined by the Ministry of Justice last week, for the State to take DNA samples from persons arrested during the state of emergency.

“We need to have a new DNA law in place,” he said. “We would want to take DNA samples from those persons arrested.” He noted that there was also a need to ensure that such samples are properly stored and databanks utilised in a way that will enhance law enforcement.

Ramlogan welcomed Minister of Justice Herbert Volney’s announcement that there will be electronic tagging of criminals, noting that this measure could be ready by the end of the year.

“The Ministry of Justice has been working hard on that to give judicial officers an option both when granting bail and when sentencing,” he said.

Volney, in an interview with Newsday, yesterday noted that the legislation to approve use of electronic tagging is to be submitted to Cabinet for approval tomorrow and if approved, mechanisms for funding would have to be devised in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance. The matter could be put out to tender as well, he said.

Ramlogan noted that the use of electronic tagging would be useful particularly in cases involving persons who cannot afford to post bail.

“Many persons are not able to meet those requirements,” he noted. He also revealed that he has asked the Ministry of Justice to examine ways to reform current practices in relation to bail, which he said are oppressive on persons not able to post property as surety.

“It does not give many people a chance to reform themselves,” Ramlogan said. He said the reform of bail would be aimed so as “To not give a dog a bad name and hang them first.”

The Attorney General also said the State was looking to “partner with churches, NGOs and a myriad of social programmes” to deal with the issue of rehabilitation.

“There are enough people who are crying,” he said. “We want to give you a second chance.”

The Attorney General said the measures were all part of a plan.

“Our all-out assault has ended the first phase and now we are going to a second phase,” he said.


"Courts to sit at nights"

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