Contending that the justice system has “collapsed”, an Opposition legislator is calling for a “radical” revamp in order to make it more efficient.
“Our justice system in Barbados has collapsed. We are now putting plasters on a corpse.
What is necessary is a complete and radical overhaul of our justice system,” Senator Wilfred Abrahams said in the Upper Chamber today in his contribution to debate on the Magistrates’ Courts (Amendment) Bill 2016, which seeks to end bottlenecks on the magistrates’ courts by doing away with time-consuming preliminary inquiries.
Abrahams argued that a shortage of support staff and judges would render the legislation unworkable, adding that the bottlenecks would simply be transferred to the High Court.
He said that in the current situation statements taken from accused and witnesses were not being presented on time, and eliminating preliminary inquiries in favour of written accounts would not improve the situation.
The attorney-at-law explained that in preliminary inquiries, the magistrate disposed of issues such as hearsay, but if cases were sent directly the judges, the unfounded information would be left in.
“Somebody needs to vet those statements to take out things that are hearsay to make sure only appropriate court-ready evidence gets up now to the High Court,” he said.
“Where are those people coming from? We do not even have enough people in the system to deal with the existing [requirements of] just transcribing the police officers’ handwriting into type form. It is another layer of people that have to work.
“We have two judges dealing with all of the criminal trials in Barbados; two courts sitting for the criminal assizes at any one time. That might have been perfect in 1966 when we got independence; it is wholly and totally inadequate now. Two courts cannot process the amount of matters that are currently going to the High Court for trial,” the Opposition senator argued.
“If we think we are backlogged in the High Court now, it is going to be chaos when this goes in. Absolute and total chaos,” he warned.