OECS Governments Urged To Undertake Criminal Justice Reform

(CMC) – The 2022 law term of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) began on Tuesday with Chief Justice Dame Janice M. Pereira, urging governments in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to introduce legislation for criminal justice reform.

Speaking on the theme The CSC: Re-imagining the Justice System in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond, Justice Pereira told the virtual ceremony that the legislation would address the backlog within the criminal justice system in the sub-region.”

“It is disheartening and quite troubling when those accused of inflicting harm and those who have suffered harm find common ground in lamenting the seemingly interminable wait for justice”

She said that it cannot be said that the criminal justice system “is in dire need of robs reform” recalling that she had made the point in her address to the opening of the previous law term.

“The time is right for our governments to assist the judiciary by including in their legislative agendas criminal justice reform measures such as provisions fr the implementation of judge alone trials for specific case types within the context of the constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair trial”.

Justice Pereira said this mode of trial has been “tried and tested” in other courts in the region, adding “when one considers the plethora of criminal offences trial able by a magistrate there can in my view be no compelling or objectively reasoned opposition to its implementation.

“Taking such measures would go a long way towards reducing the backlog of criminal cases in the OECS with no adverse effect on the fairness of the trial process,” she added

The ECSC consists of two divisions, a Court of Appeal and a High Court of Justice. The Court of Appeal is itinerant, travelling to each member state and territory, where it sits at various specified dates during the year to hear appeals from the decisions of the High Court and Magistrates Courts in member states in both civil and criminal matters.

The ESCS serves the islands of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts-Nevis, and Montserrat.