Hello Chief Justice and hello to all who individually and collectively contribute so much to these islands within the justice system, but also well beyond that.
I apologize for only being able to join you in making these remarks, but I was determined to do so, coming out of a conference I’m hosting here.
With these apologies, I cannot tell you how happy I am to be a part of this historic event and begin by placing the change we are marking today in a larger context by congratulating the Chief Justice for the momentum that she developed in reforming, with her colleagues, our justice system.
In a very specific and real sense, after visiting the prison last week and meeting so many remand inmates, I can see – as a layman in these areas – how important it is to have an effective system that can deliver a fair result, at a steady pace, and it is in this very practical sense – and in all other senses in terms of the rights of the victim and the accused – that I applaud this change in administration justice by introducing transparent and codified “rules of criminal procedure” in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
These rules of criminal procedure mark, as I understand it, the beginning of better criminal justice practice and procedure in all of our courts. I understand that these rules contribute to the fulfillment of the mandate of the judiciary to deal with criminal cases fairly and expeditiously. They bring together previously dispersed (and sometimes undocumented) practices and procedures into one comprehensive document. This provides consistency and certainty in how cases will be handled by the various players in the criminal justice system.
It seems to me, as someone who is probably the least qualified on these issues, during this gathering of talents and legal experience, that it is reassuring to know that all the stakeholders, whether they are bailiffs of justice, lawyers or defendants who are brought before the court, now have a first stopover to know how the case will unfold. This provides, I suppose, not only a certain degree of certainty, but also a certain assurance that the matters will not be subjected to arbitrary practice. All stakeholders will have the security of codified deadlines.
I also understand that these rules transfer to the court, that is to say to the judge or magistrate, the control of the procedure, including the responsibility for ensuring that deadlines are met. The judge or magistrate is henceforth the “manager” not only of the law in the case before him, but also the manager of the parties to the proceedings. In this role, the parties are held accountable to the judge or magistrate who is empowered to sanction those who fail to comply with these published procedures.
The rules also introduce the work of a case progression officer who is responsible for actively monitoring and tracking planning orders, and advancing cases in a timely manner. The person is also responsible for regularly reviewing all pending cases, to ensure that the appropriate notifications are given and other necessary actions are taken.
Creating a declaration of defense in these rules will prevent, I have been told, “ambush defense” as has happened in other jurisdictions with rules similar to ours. The adversarial battle of the criminal trial has now been replaced, with each side knowing the “real issues” to be tried, which can only save time and resources in the courtroom.
This development, along with other prosecution and defense disclosure requirements, will ensure that the court, prosecution and defense are held accountable to each other and, ultimately, to the public. of the Turks and Caicos Islands they serve.
There are other innovations in criminal justice and the benefits provided by these rules, which I’m sure legal minds will talk about. Suffice it to say that these rules are a welcome intervention in the delivery of criminal justice.
In England and Wales, criminal procedural rules similar to our current ones have been in effect since 2005 or shortly thereafter, and I understand they have helped to change the face of the criminal justice system in the UK. United.
Regional justice systems have implemented rules of criminal procedure with similar success. In Trinidad and Tobago, for example, the rules were launched in 2017, in Saint Lucia, which is part of the Eastern Caribbean Court, in 2015. Comments from these jurisdictions on the impact of these rules have been extremely positive. Case management is now a transparent process, cases move faster through the courts as all parties to a trial are now in sync (as common parlance says) with each other.
I am therefore proud to see our judiciary moving forward in this manner and I am honored to be part of this historic development of our legal and judicial system, driven by our Chief Justice and his appointed technical team who drafted these rules, along with the he contribution of the Attorney General’s office to the comprehensive strategy for progressive justice that you, the justice stakeholders in this jurisdiction, have adopted so encouragingly.