There’s a need for persons from all sectors in Barbados and the region to come up with “fresh approaches” to deal with “old systems” operating within the judicial system.
Magistrate Douglas Frederick made the comment as he addressed young interns attached to the Office of Public Council and visiting prison officers from St Kitts and Nevis.
He stated that regional countries are grappling with an increase in criminal activity and a lack of proper infrastructure to deal with the situation because “the old ideas are clearly not working”.
“That is the nature of our systems, they are so old . . . . sometimes I have to write the evidence on summary matters. We recently got computers [but] the computers are not even for certain purposes. It’s really for recording evidence but then they don’t give you the infrastructure to do it,” the Bridgetown magistrate said.
Frederick highlighted the delay in getting matters adjudicated in a reasonable time which “sometimes” result in cases having to be dismissed affecting all parties involved.
“That is the nature of the system. So sometimes you get matters that are five years, six years, seven years and people are asking to dismiss them. I can dismiss them sometimes but then you have an aggrieved party who is out,” said Frederick who explained that the situation could lead to “a type of vigilante cycle”.
“That person will say ‘look I am not going back to the police because my matter took seven years and they didn’t even call me and the magistrate dismissed it. The next time something happens I am going to take matters into my own hands’. So that is the balancing act that I have to do. Sometimes I have to put some pressure on them [the prosecution] and put down a final adjournment. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t work, sometimes you have to dismiss some no matter how serious it is,” he further explained.
“Sometimes people are on remand because of serious crime and they have a history. Sometimes you ask the prosecution to give it due diligence and sometimes they drop the ball and you have to release them on bail so that is the nature of our system,” Frederick added.
However, he was quick to point out that officials in Barbados are looking at ways to address the systematic failures.
“We are trying to deal with this and there are some reforms that will be put in place. I don’t know how it will work but we are working to do our best to do justice. Sometimes it can be very frustrating to the prosecution, to everybody, even the parties who are complaining and the accused but that is the nature of our system . . . .
“That is why we need minds like yours because the old ideas are clearly not working. So we need fresh approaches to this thing from all sectors so maybe that is why you are here. Because sometimes people who are on the outside looking in can come up with an idea that is better than the ones who are on the inside,” he stated.