While the possible implementation of Criminal Procedure Rules has been given the thumbs up by president of the Barbados Bar Association (BBA) Liesel Weekes, she believes a Criminal Registry is first required.
Her comments have come three days after Attorney General Dale Marshall revealed that legislation could soon be coming to put an end to accused persons sitting in jail for prolonged periods without a court hearing.
That legislation he said, could come in the form of Criminal Procedure Rules.
Marshall said he planned to meet with Cabinet “in a few weeks” to seek its permission to put such rules in place.
However, in an interview with Barbados TODAY, Weekes said a Criminal Registry was needed before that legislation was passed.
She explained that a Criminal Registry would operate in the same manner as the Civil Registry, keeping tabs on all cases which come before the court.
“I don’t know what the Criminal Procedure Rules contemplate but I do feel that you can’t have the rules independently of a Criminal Registry.
“The court takes control of all the files, the court knows when the matters have started, who is on remand, who has applied for bail. They are fully aware of the status of each matter so nobody gets lost. That’s what happens in the civil court and it needs to happen in the criminal court,” Weekes maintained.
“I just don’t see how the two can work independently of each other and I certainly don’t see how the rules can precede the Registry, but I don’t know what the Rules contemplate so maybe I am being premature in saying that, but I do feel that integral to the whole process of expediency, efficiency and fairness in the criminal justice system we need a [Criminal] Registry.”
Weekes said the possibility of such a registry being established was raised at a meeting with the Attorney General earlier this year.
She said while the AG was not opposed to the suggestion, the issue of financing such an initiative in the current economic climate could not be overlooked.
And while Weekes said it was much easier and cheaper to effect rules than it was to staff a registry or reallocate workers, it was urgently needed.
She said she believed the combination of a Criminal Registry along with the Criminal Procedure Rules would help to greatly improve the criminal justice system.
“The registry is required if we really want to treat to criminal matters so that we know what is happening at every stage and we don’t have a case as we had recently,” the BBA president said.
Weekes said if a Criminal Registry was available in Barbados, what happened to Winston Agard could have been avoided.
The 50-year-old Agard spent seven years in HMP Dodds without attending a court hearing after being charged for theft back in 2009.
His case only became public after a prison officer highlighted his plight to the relevant authorities.