President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Justice Adrian Saunders, says he is concerned about the high levels of homicide and other violent crimes across the region. Describing the situation as “horrendous”, Justice Saunders made it clear that the situation was untenable, as some Caribbean countries rank among the highest in the world in this regard.
“According to recent statistics on countries that have the highest homicide rates in the world, sad to say per hundred thousand, Caribbean countries feature very prominently in the worst 25 countries,” said Saunders, who was taking questions from the media following the swearing-in of Justice Andrew Burgess to the CCJ, at Government House this morning.
The CCJ president did not name the source of his information nor did he single out any particular country, but he noted that the situation had got to the point where the region’s highest appellate body was forced to take notice.
Saunders explained that there was no one facet of the justice system that held the key to the reduction of these crimes. However, he suggested that getting all of the organs of the criminal justice system to function in unison might be easier said than done.
“Crime is a problem and treatment of crime is a very intractable problem because there is not one criminal justice system. There are actually several justice systems that have to work in tandem with each other. There is the prosecutorial system, there is the police, there is the prison system, courts, probation etc. All of these bodies have different high command structures and have a role to play in tackling crime. It is therefore imperative that they all work together in order to fashion appropriate rules and processes,” he told reporters.
However, Saunders contended that ultimately the buck stopped with the courts, noting that the long stay of criminals on remand was becoming a major concern.
“This is a challenge that we are yet to fully grapple with in the Caribbean. The court only plays a small part in resolving that issue, but I think it plays the most important part because ultimately these cases come to the court for resolution. We have too many persons in custody on remand for inordinate lengths of time and that too is an issue that we have to address,” he said.
This concern was also raised last November by Barbados’ Attorney General Dale Marshall, who charged that the wheels of justice were moving too slowly and as a result, too many murder accused on remand were applying for bail.
Marshall said at the time that the slow pace to trial was emboldening offenders and contributing to Barbados rising murder statistics. [email protected]