There is an urgent need for more criminal attorneys in Barbados.
This call comes from Attorney General Dale Marshall, who believes that the small pool of criminal lawyers has way too much on their plate, contributing to backlog of cases in the court system.
In a recent interview with Barbados TODAY, the AG contended that too often it is difficult to get cases completed because of the caseload carried by the available criminal defence lawyers.
“There are not a lot lawyers who do criminal matters. If you follow criminal matters you would see that there are a number of names that appear all of the time. The priority for getting the backlog down has always been homicide cases but only three or four lawyers do these cases consistently. This raises issues in terms of scheduling,” Marshall said.
Yesterday, the AG revealed that the fulfilling the promise of three additional judges to assist the congestion of the court system would not be possible until repairs were completed at the Supreme Court Complex on White Park Road. He also pointed out that there were not enough secure locations to conduct criminal matters.
“In relation to criminal matters there are some practical difficulties and the completion of the work in Whitepark Road is one of those issues. In order to be able to do criminal trials there are certain arrangements that have to be put in place. You have to have cells as well as other security measures
and when we looked at the cost it was not feasible,” said Marshall.
However even with increase capacity to hear cases when the court is returned to Whitepark Road by the end of March, without more lawyers to fast track the matters, the court system could be back at square one.
“We will increase the number of judges on the criminal bench but equally there needs to be enough lawyers to push cases through to effectively do trials. We are hopeful that all of these things will be worked out,” he said.
Back in November Marshall expressed concern that eight murder accused on remand at Her Majesty’s Prison at Dodds had applied for bail in one week alone, an indication that the wheels of justice were moving much too slowly.
“So with the best will in the world and with all that the police do, if at the end of that process when people are presented for trial we are not in a position to deal with them effectively, then we have a problem,” Marshall argued.
Marshall said the slow pace to trial is emboldening offenders and contributing to this country’s rising murder statistics.