The January criminal assizes came to an end last week Wednesday with the completion of only 12 of the 134 cases that were listed for trial between the two (2) criminal courts in the country.
ccording to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, a total of 10 matters are still pending sentencing, which means that a total of 112 matters will be traversed to the next assizes scheduled to commence on April 5.
During a brief ceremony held at the No. 1 High Court in St. George’s last week Wednesday, the presiding Judge, Justice Shiraz Aziz, pointed to certain “limitations of the court and its resources,” contributing to the slow pace of dealing with matters.
He said that although only a small amount of cases were completed a lot of work was being done “to ensure that cases are dealt with fairly, efficiently and effectively.”
Justice Aziz indicated that some of the cases had to be adjourned due to a lack of expertise and also referenced a major setback in cases at the No.1 High Court, due to a strange smell that was emitting from the Juror’s room that caused jurors to feel nauseous.
“A lot of the cases that came before this court, we had adjourned because expert assistance were required. There isn’t a great pool (of experts) in Grenada so we had to source experts outside of the country,” he said, adding that “it takes time and money.”
“We are working with the budget that we have,” he remarked.
Justice Aziz cited a greater need to “use technology to hear matters via video conferencing,” which he felt would save a lot of time and money.
“We need to move in that direction…where everything would be done openly,” he said.
Meanwhile, Crown Counsel in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Crisan Greenidge praised the police officers who ensure safety and protection; the jurors, who play an integral part of the criminal process and the genetics or forensic pathologists for their continued willingness to assist the court when called upon.
Greenidge also lauded the criminal lawyers, who, he said demonstrated willingness, when called upon by the court to assist offenders free of cost.
In the interest of saving time, the female State Prosecutor encouraged attorneys as they move towards the new term to identify matters that can be death with expeditiously.
Also addressing the ceremony was Criminal Attorney-at-law, Peter David, who echoed the sentiments of Greenidge, noting the dwindling number of lawyers practicing criminal law in the country.
He called on his colleagues to get involved in criminal practice as it would help the process move at a much quicker pace.
Several lawyers are reportedly not interested in criminal work at the bar due to the limited financial returns when compared with some civil court matters.
Meanwhile, Chief Officer at the Richmond Hill Prison, Rupert Neckles, told the Court at the close of the assizes that there are a total of 454 inmates currently housed at the country’s lone prison facility.
Of this amount, he said there are 356 convicted males, 6 convicted females, and 2 convicted males from the sister isle of Carriacou, who also have other matters pending there.
Neckles disclosed that there are 40 males awaiting trial, while there are 19 appellants or persons who are appealing in a higher court the previous judicial decision taken against them, 4 judgment debtors, 4 juveniles (3 males and 1 female).
Additionally, there are 20 non-nationals including 1 Barbadian, 1 British, 1 Canadian, 11 Vincentians, 2 Jamaicans and 4 Guyanese housed at the prison.