A leading defense attorney-at-law is objecting to Attorney General, Dale Marshall’s assertion that the limited number of lawyers taking on criminal law, especially murder cases, is contributing to the worrisome backlog in local courts.
This morning Andrew Pilgrim, Q.C., suggested that the criminal court system was already at its capacity with the current pool of lawyers.
“The fact is that over the last several years we have only had two criminal courts sitting at anytime. So this notion of having too few criminal lawyers is not really a problem because you only have two courts. So if you have a case being done with me in one court and another case being done with Arthur Holder in another court, you cannot do anymore. So at any given time you cannot do more than two trials realistically,” Pilgrim said.
The senior attorney said he welcomed more lawyers into the field, as he firmly believes that “people should have a healthy choice”.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY earlier this week, the AG contended that too often it is difficult to get cases completed because of the caseload carried by the available 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.
The AG further revealed that 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 Whitepark Road. He contended that even with increased 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 would still be hampered.
However this morning Pilgrim told Barbados TODAY that the evidence does not show that the courts have made murder cases a priority.
“I think the first question that we have to ask is if homicides are really being prioritized. If so, some research should be done to show how many murder cases are tried in a year, because I don’t think we try more than five murder cases in a year. Maybe some people plead out to manslaughter but I don’t think there’s any evidence that suggests that more homicides are being prioritized.