Dominica Bar Association addresses urgent need for improvement in legal system

The Dominica Bar Association is echoing the concerns raised by His Lordship Justice Collin Williams regarding the inefficiencies and delays plaguing the country’s criminal justice system. Justice Williams, in remarks made at the close of the January assizes on March 13, 2024, highlighted similar issues raised during the September assizes last year. The Bar Association acknowledges the complexity of the problem and, in a statement, has called for urgent improvements.

To understand the challenges outlined by Justice Williams, it’s important to examine the court processes involved in handling criminal cases. Serious offenses, known as ‘indictable’ offenses, undergo several stages starting from police investigation, followed by charges, preparation of case files, and a preliminary inquiry in the Magistrates Court. If there is sufficient evidence, the case proceeds to trial in the High Court.

Delays, reportedly, occur at almost every stage of the process, particularly in preparing case files and conducting preliminary inquiries. The process is further hindered by inefficiencies such as delays in summoning witnesses and absenteeism of investigating officers. While some cases proceed more swiftly through ‘paper committals’, this method lacks adequate resources and training for widespread use.

The latest DBA statement further voices the significant consequences of a justice system riddled with impediments. According to the statement, defendants awaiting trial spend prolonged periods on remand, which violates their constitutional rights to a fair and timely trial. Victims of crimes are also denied closure and justice due to prolonged legal proceedings.

Meanwhile, in December 2023, Assistant Superintendent Handel Joseph evidenced this state of affairs in the state prison, identifying that out of a total population of 258 prisoners, 131 were on remand at that time.

“It is important to note, further, that unreasonable delays in the criminal justice system may also undermine the safety of our society, when possible criminal elements are released without trial due to the excessive delay in having their cases tried. It is for all of these reasons that the Dominica Bar Association has, over the years, made and continues to make representation to the authorities concerning the delays in not only the criminal justice system but the entire
justice system altogether,” states the DBA.

The Dominica Bar Association emphasizes the urgent need for comprehensive reform to address these issues. While acknowledging ongoing efforts, such as the recent invitation to participate in reform discussions hosted by the Partnership of the Caribbean and European Union on Justice (Pace Justice) Project, through the Ministry of Legal Affairs, the Bar Association believes more immediate actions are necessary, assering that “a robust working system would negate the culture of delay that has arisen in our courts.”

Recommendations put forth by the Bar Association include:

  1. Increasing training and resources for the use of paper committals.
  2. Appointing more Magistrates and optimizing court processes for criminal matters.
  3. Encouraging diligence among investigators, prosecutors, Magistrates, and lawyers.
  4. Implementing stricter sanctions for untimely prosecution and absenteeism of defense counsel.
  5. Advocating for diligent prosecution of cases by victims, accused persons, families, and the general public.

The Bar Association calls for collective efforts, reminding all stakeholders of their responsibility to uphold the rule of law and ensure justice for all by “addressing the weaknesses in the sytem that are are known, not new, and need to be cured.”

 

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15 Comments

  1. Time for change
    April 4, 2024

    I’m reading everyone should be blamed for the delays and incompetent of individuals but I’m not seeing the Lawyers who wilfully allow matters to be adjourned for years in the hope that something Happens for them. what about politicians interfering in matters before the court. I guess you all don’t see on the other side.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
  2. Bwa-Banday
    April 4, 2024

    There is a simple first step that can bring the system to its knees and force positive changes. If ALL attorneys/ lawyers/ Barristers with cases at next assizes (May) refuse to attend (take sick leave or whatever), this would make it the first time time in Caribbean history the high court would have to be adjourned/ rescheduled due to a collective effort by those seeking justice. Now, that would bring the international press and all NGOs associated with equal justice to our shores and expose those crooks in the cabal and our justice system representing the government. Easy like Sunday morning!

    Now that you have it, run with it so we can actually target the upcoming may assizes. :twisted:

  3. Mahaut yout
    April 4, 2024

    The bar or glass association is a complete waste of space.
    These people are only there to fill their pockets on poor Dominicans.
    They lack integrity, moral and ethics.
    We all know of their silence both on government and opposition.
    You would think those lawyers that is agains the ills would take a stance. But no, they’re all keeping quiet because they think they have much to loose.
    Bunch of incompetent lawyers.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
  4. Truth Be Told
    April 3, 2024

    Too late shall be the cry! Dominica Bar Association, you are too late! You are 20 years too late but better late than never! You have allowed yourself, your silence and inactions to become a part of the problem!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0
  5. angelwatch
    April 3, 2024

    I agree absolutely.

  6. Clear the Air
    April 3, 2024

    Start by banning the term “His Lordship”!

  7. Still time
    April 3, 2024

    And why has it taken so long? Could you tell us why you think this has taken so darn long while people are suffering innocently? Well, I know why…Dominicans love it this way. They have gotten used to living in Babylon.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  8. Ibo France
    April 3, 2024

    The Dominica Bar Association has been hibernating for much too long. Presently, the country is submerged in questionable dealings and illegalities. Despite this, the DBA has remained stoically unperturbed.

    What bothers me most is that this regime goes to parliament and passes bills that make illegality legal. By keeping reticent, the Dominica Bar Association is inadvertently lending support to the lawless of this kleptocracy that passes as a government.

    The local lawyers are selfish. It’s all about fattening their pockets. They do no pro bono work. They charge enormous fees for the simplest of legal work.

    DBA you are in a unique position to stop the country from spiralling to nothingness. Grow a spine and stop acting like a jellyfish.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
  9. anonymous
    April 3, 2024

    plenty talk and nothing changes, since it mostly works in favor of the lawyers.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1
  10. Not me is them
    April 3, 2024

    “It is for all of these reasons that the Dominica Bar Association has, over the years, made and continues to make representation to the authorities concerning the delays in not only the criminal justice system but the entire
    justice system altogether,” states the DBA.”….Okay then, so why has it taken so long, and what’s going to change now? You keep applying the same method for many years with zero results and you keep asking for the same thing? Those requests go straight to the trash 🗑 bin. Do something differently if you are so honest and tired of doing the same thing for years.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0
  11. Ibo France
    April 2, 2024

    Can someone tell me which system or ministry or organ of government works well (efficiently and effectively? All, without exception, deserve a failing grade.

    You can have a corrupt, uncaring, incompetent imbecile at the apex of government and expect good governance. It’s like walking in a heavy and continuous downpour of rain without an umbrella and expect not to get wet.

    How can one expect an efficacious justice system when the DPP is handpicked by a most partisan politician; the police force is comprised of mostly school dropouts and most recruits are functionally illiterate.

    The court is no longer an arbiter of justice. Just think about the case against Mr. Lennox Linton et alia and the foul-mouthed Speaker of the House.

    Dominicans will live on the periphery of existence until the bright day of justice emerges.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2
  12. Stupes Tan
    April 2, 2024

    Wait, Dominica has a Bar Association???

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0
    • Whyyyy doe kil me
      April 3, 2024

      I see more lawyers sitting at the Bar associating. So yes, Dominica do have a “Bar Association.”

    • Bwa-Banday
      April 4, 2024

      Yes we sure do as you have now realized :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  13. Shaka Zulu
    April 2, 2024

    A man on remand for 12 years and if the Judge and some of us had not spoken the Bar Assc. would have sat silent. That means it took 12 years for the bar association to realize there is a serious problem. You guys have not been doing enough to ensure there is justice in the land. There has been countless ethics violation and not one lawyers disbarred. what is the plan for upholding integrity and high ethical standards in the justice and legal system. The measure of yall worth is being able to self regulate. I applaud the effort but if there are no serious follow up plans to address these urgent issues then all this is a waste of public information.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

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