The state of the island’s judicial system has gone under the microscope yet again with one top attorney declaring it was operating in a rut.
Angella Mitchell-Gittens’ comments came as she addressed Justice Randall Worrell this morning in a matter involving 50-year-old Winston Adolphus Agard of 3rd Avenue, Licorish Village, St Michael who fell through the “cracks” of the system.
Agard appeared in the No. 2 Supreme Court this morning for the first time in over seven years after spending over ten years on remand. He pleaded guilty to stealing a bag and contents including $1,000 cash belonging to Connie Young on March 27, 2009 with a total value of BDS$9, 230. He told Mitchell-Gittens who took his case pro bono that he last appeared in court in 2012.
“We are operating in such a rut that you can’t even plead guilty. Something is seriously wrong with that when we cannot expedite a guilty plea. People are begging to plead guilty and not even that we can accommodate sir,” Mitchell-Gittens told Justice Worrell.
Adamant that there was need for urgent intervention the veteran attorney said she was of the view that if prisoners who were desirous of pleading guilty were able to do so in a timely manner then “I think we would cut that backlog in half.”
Making reference to fellow legal counsel Arthur Holder who was present in court, and who is also the Speaker of the House of Parliament, she said: “I am glad that a Member of Parliament is sitting to my right and I hope he will take this information to the necessary place because this is madness that a man is sitting in prison more than the maximum sentence”.
Holder subsequently admitted, “It is a sad state of affairs, it really is.”
“You have sometime when the inmate is so frustrated having spent so much time that they don’t bother to fight the case [saying] ‘I already spent eight years let me just throw in the towel’, he added.
Justice Worrell revealed, “We have sent down more letters to wherever they should be to ask and to indicate that these persons want to plead guilty and do they have indictments, but we are still in the dark.”
He suggested that what maybe needed was to speak with the other sitting criminal court in order to formulate a plan to get those cases done. The judicial officer made it clear that he did not want to start a new legal year with this situation.
“ We cannot go forward in September, we cannot start the new legal year with these persons hanging on,” the judge stated.
Principal Crown Counsel Alliston Seale also admitted that there was a break down.
“There is no doubt about it . . . . We in the criminal justice system, Bench, Bar, prison everybody must do his or her part to ensure that we get this thing on the road,” he said