Chief Magistrate Evalina Baptiste has expressed frustration at the volume of adjourned matters that is clogging the court system and says she is determined to have the matter fixed.
Speaking in court on the issue, Baptiste expressed her “disgust and frustration” as a young woman desperately attempted to have the magistrate adjourn a matter dating back to 2010, which involved the woman and the state.
The court had already granted several adjournments in that matter and was set to proceed on July 5, 2012 but with her lawyer being absent, the defendant asked for another adjournment which the magistrate flatly refused.
“People are out there blasting the magistrates saying they are not doing their work and don’t want to do certain matters but they are not hearing the other side where people come to court and continuously ask for adjournments,” Baptiste said.
An obviously annoyed Chief Magistrate told the defendant that if she were to grant an adjournment in “that simple matter” she would “recuse herself” – views also articulated by the prosecution.
“All people do is come to court and ask for adjournments in almost all matters…we have work to do and this is frustrating, this is a simple matter and I am fed up,” she said. She gave the young lady in question one hour to get another lawyer to represent her in the matter.
In an interview with DNO, Baptiste explained that “on any court day, we usually choose the oldest matter for priority hearing followed by the PI matters. However, many times we are ready to go and then we receive correspondence from counsel. We then have to weigh each case on its merit and in the idle circumstances; we would have liked to complete each matter within nine (9) months. The constant adjournments are rather frustrating and the court system does not have enough teeth to bite.”
She told DNO that it becomes even more “frustrating” when defendants ask magistrates to recluse themselves in matters that have started and are far ahead. “When this is done, that matter goes before another magistrate and has to be started all over…..the system does have lots of problems which are frustrating at all levels,” she complained.
Baptiste conceded that more courts and magistrates are needed to help the system function much better but was quick to add “that is for the powers that be.”
Meantime, Peter Alleyne a defense lawyer, agrees with the Chief Magistrate but said the shortage of magistrates, coupled with the fact that lawyers are “sole” practitioners with conflicting court dates in the high court and Masters court, further compounding the matter.
“The system needs a review……merger of the magistrate’s court with the high court, we have major systemic problems,” Alleyne stated.
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