Frustrated with the slow wheels of justice in the country, prominent attorney-at-law Andrew Pilgrim, QC, today argued for the implementation of a 90-day rule, similar to what obtains in the United Kingdom, after which languishing court cases, in which the prosecution has failed to present a file, would have to be thrown out.
The suggestion came after police prosecutor Neville Watson informed the District ‘A’ Magistrates’ Court, which was being presided over Thursday by Acting Chief Magistrate Douglas Frederick, that he was still not in a position to proceed with a 2014 matter brought against Pilgrim’s client Jamel Omar Ashby since he was not yet in possession of Ashby’s file.
“We should all be able to see that there is something inherently wrong with the system and I wonder what tool we have to [implement] to make the system wake up,” said Pilgrim, who went on to suggest to the presiding officer that “the only tool was for people like your Worship to say, ‘On serious matters I will give you all a year, a year and a half on capital matters, but I am not taking two-year-old matters forward”.
Ashby, who is in his 20s, of Rogers Road, Ivy, St Michael is charged with seven serious offences, including the unlawful possession of a firearm.
However, Pilgrim took serious offence to the absence of not even a piece of paper, beyond his client’s charge sheet, saying “well look Jamel Ashby did this”.
“We have to set logical guidelines that say that this time is too long. In the UK it is 90 days [and if there is] no evidence, you go home,” he advocated.
The criminal lawyer also expressed frustration over the fact that his client had been incarcerated at HMP Dodds for almost 27 months.
“[That’s] nine times what the UK who we follow so slavishly [does],” Pilgrim pointed out before concluding that the situation in which his client now finds himself was “unfortunate”.
“My view is, it is not [any] great peril if these matters get dismissed. I think that the trend moving forward should be that [if] magistrates see 90 days pass and nothing done they should dismiss [the cases] because they can always be brought back.
“The point is people shouldn’t have to sit in prison for two years plus of their life without one iota of evidence being brought forward,” he stressed.
Pilgrim also took a swipe at Opposition legislator Kerrie Symmonds, who is also an attorney, over his recent calls for harsher penalties under the Firearms Act.
“We really thinking along the right lines . . . we want harsher penalties? I mean the penalties I see under the Firearms Act are pretty hard [and] the point is you can’t put them in first,” he argued.
Outside the courtroom, Pilgrim further criticized Symmonds’ call which was made at a political meeting last weekend. He accused the Barbados Labour Party representative for St James Central of “a knee jerk reaction” to the recent spate of gun crimes in the country.
“Enforcement is one thing. In other words I don’t think there is any need for any harsher penalties. Penalties under the Act in respect to wounding, bodily harm, these things carry up to life imprisonment,” Pilgrim told Barbados TODAY, adding that “possession of firearm the limits are high.
“He [Symmonds] is saying to increase the penalties [but] the penalties are already stiff. What are you going to give them, two life sentences instead of one? It doesn’t make any sense,” added the Queen’s Counsel, moments after his case was adjourned for a week.
He was adamant that more must be done to ensure this country’s law courts function efficiently.