At least one criminologist is not in agreement with Government’s recent decision to make drastic changes to the criminal justice system.
According to Dr Janeille Matthews, a lecturer at the University of the West Indies in criminal law, forensic criminology and legal research and writing, the proposed changes would make it significantly more difficult for an accused to prove his innocence in a court of law.
Late last month the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020, was tabled in Parliament.
The Bill amends six other criminal Acts, which among other things, abolishes the requirement for a unanimous jury verdict for murder and the right of an accused to make an unsworn statement from the dock in an indictable case.
Dr Matthews, who is also an attorney-at-law, said it was also concerning that the changes were made without consultation from the public or the Barbados Bar Association.
“It really feels as though Government is stacking the deck against the accused because these are safeguards that we have in order to guarantee a fair and correct trial in order to make sure that justice is actually being served.
“I think what also concerns me is the manner in which it was done, without the consultation but the fact that we are not sure what they are aiming to do. So is it that Government is just outcomes oriented? Are they just looking for convictions? But what happens if you are convicting the wrong person?” Dr Matthews questioned.
“I think rushed convictions or focusing on outcomes is the wrong approach. We should really be focusing on the process because I don’t think that the ends justifies the means.”
Her comments have come in the wake of criticisms from attorneys-at-law Andrew Pilgrim and Verla Depeiza, who both lambasted Government.
Depeiza too agreed that the rights of the accused were being trampled on.
“It is part of an insidious creep that we are seeing whittling away people’s rights. You have a right to a fair trial and you have the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. More and more changes are being made that almost have the import of forcing an accused person to prove their innocence,” DePeiza contended.
“There is nothing really left as a Constitutional guarantee that means that you are innocent until somebody else proves you guilty. The right not to incriminate yourself has gone completely out through the window.”
Pilgrim, a Queen’s Counsel, also expressed concerns that due to Government’s overwhelming majority in Parliament “they could do whatever they liked”.
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