Government has signalled its intention to appeal recent decisions in which accused men were awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation after the courts found their constitutional rights were infringed.
This was made clear on Friday by Attorney General Dale Marshall who said the State will challenge the rulings of Justices Cecil McCarthy and Cicely Chase who awarded Pedro Ellis and Larry Patrick Agard a combined $155 000.
Justice Chase awarded Agard $95 000 for the 14-year delay in having his matter heard, while Justice McCarthy awarded murder accused Agard $60 000 after he ruled that his constitutional rights to a fair hearing within a reasonable time and to bail had been breached.
Ellis had also been awarded $75 000 by Justice Shona Griffith for being unlawfully detained for 18 days after he was acquitted of murder.
“In each of those cases, the issue was the delay that besets the criminal system and how it has infringed individual’s constitutional rights and in each of those cases, those people got damages awarded. I can tell you now that I have given instructions that we are to appeal two of them. We’re fighting back on some of the legal fundamentals, we’re going to appeal the last two decisions,” Marshall announced at a press conference at police headquarters.
And while the Attorney General praised the judges in the High Court for dispatching 400 cases in the space of just two years, he poured cold water on recent suggestions by two judges that timelines be implemented in an effort to expedite court cases.
Marshall said while he respected the views of those judges, police investigations needed to be thorough and, therefore, could not always be completed in short order.
He was responding to comments by Justice Carlisle Greaves and Justice Chase who lamented the long time it was taking police officers to have files ready.
Justice Greaves, in particular, had argued that there should be no reason for accused people not to be before the High Court for trial within three months of being charged.
“I respect the judges and I respect their views, but to sit in a court and try to set out what a guideline is…. I’m not a police officer but the Commissioner has briefed me that there are times when they will bring charges against an individual on the basis of evidence that they have, but the fact that they may have charged you does not mean the investigation is yet at an end,” Marshall explained.
“These days, when you are looking into what they do with the assets and money laundering and so on it takes quite some time longer, and [there is] DNA testing and so on that we often have to send overseas. It is nice to be able to say that a three-month guideline is adequate but that is very hypothetical. I would prefer to think of what is practical and there are some challenges that we face.
“I would love to see the day that an investigation is completed in six months and that the trial starts at the start of the seventh month; that’s what we aim for. I thank the judges for their recommendations and judges are very wise people,” Marshall added.
The Attorney General contended that in some cases, lawyers contributed to the lengthy delays.
“I like to think that the respected judges try to come up with normative timelines. One of the challenges that we face is that we have a very small criminal bar. There are a few specific lawyers who specialise and who are most sought after in criminal cases. There are very important criminal cases that cannot be heard simply because those lawyers are already involved in other cases that are either pending or scheduled. There is a murder case that for me is of vital importance in Barbados but because of the unavailability of the lawyer, time and time again it gets moved down,” Marshall pointed out. (RB)