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Posted: Sunday 23 February, 2014 at 11:51 PM

Preliminary Inquiries to be replaced by Sufficiency Hearings

By: Jenise Ferlance-Isaac,

    Plans to eradicate High Court cases backlog underway


    BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - A plan to eradicate the heavy backlog of cases to be tried at the High Court level is currently underway as announced at a press conference held by the Cabinet on Wednesday (Feb. 19).


    Making this announcement was Attorney General Hon. Jason Hamilton, who explained that his Chambers is presently in discussions with the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court to establish a division that would handle only High Court criminal matters year-round.


    He also mentioned that his Chambers is working in collaboration with the relevant ministries to sort out accommodations for such a division so that both civil and criminal High Court matters could run concurrently.


    "We are also speaking with the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in relation to establishing a Criminal Division within the Court that would necessitate the High Court Criminal Assizes that now runs in three sessions over the year, running continuously for the year. It is hoped that by doing that, it would clear up the backlog. 


    "Of course some of the considerations in relation to that are space and so we are working with the relevant ministries to try to see how we can accommodate the space for that because it would mean housing a new Court so that the High Court Criminal and the High Court Civil could run simultaneously."


    Meanwhile, plans are also underway for the doing away with the lengthy process of Preliminary Inquiries and having them replaced with Sufficiency Hearings. 


    Hamilton announced that this change would cut down on the time between arrest and trial for the accused persons.


    "The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court is also in the process of having a Master for the Criminal Division assigned. We would move away from the need for Preliminary Inquiries and move into what is called Sufficiency Hearings.


    "That would shorten the time in between when a person is arrested and when the matter comes to trial. Again that has economic benefits for the state in terms of having to house people longer than you may need to," he explained.


    A Sufficiency Hearing is whereby a Master would review witness statements, police and other documents and properly identified exhibits and, in some instances, hear submissions from prosecutor and accused to determine whether there is satisfactory evidence to allow the matter to go to trial at the high Court.


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