There is an even more urgent need to modernise the criminal justice system as crime in the Caribbean rises at an exponential rate, says Attorney General Dale Marshall.
He was speaking during the launch of the PACE Justice Project on Tuesday at Hilton Barbados Resort, Needham’s Point, St Michael.
“Everybody in this room is keenly aware of the ethics of an inefficient criminal justice sector. You are aware of the implications of an inefficient criminal justice sector on human rights, the perception that the system may be skewed in favour of the criminals and the impact on victims and witnesses all leading to a lack of confidence in the ability of the State to govern and manage,” he said.
“I say this not looking at all to apportion any blame, because that gets us nowhere, but simply to highlight this vexing issue that has become a top priority for this region as we watch the explosion of crime, especially firearm crime across the region explode. The effects of firearm crimes are disproportionate to our relatively small sizes. The need to modernise the criminal justice sector, particularly in relation to the reduction of backlog has now become one of the urgent priorities for policymakers at the highest levels in our respective countries.”
Marshall said there were several factors putting the local justice system under strain.
In an attempt to clear the backlog of 900 cases in 2018 when the current administration first took office, the number of criminal judges was increased from two to five and then to eight. However, Marshall said this did not fully solve the problem as there were other aspects of the system that needed addressing to support the move.
“The equation has to be balanced and the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] said, ‘well, I’m happy for eight judges, but you have to give me more prosecutors’ and we had to find more courtrooms and more court marshalls . . . . But even with those initiatives, it is evident that we still have a long way to go because if we’ve tried to fix the judicial side without dealing with the capacity building in the other areas, [such as technology and the workload of police officers] we simply will still have the problem,” the attorney general said.
Marshall added that he was pleased that the PACE Justice Project was coming on stream, noting that it was a timely initiative.
The project is a criminal justice reform initiative implemented by UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean with funding from the delegation of the European Union. It will focus on reducing case backlogs in the criminal justice system by
enhancing a range of institutional capacities across the Caribbean.