THE NATIONAL LEVEL
- Establish a National Intelligence Consortium and Agency that develops policies and procedures related to functions, responsibilities and over-sight arrangements for intelligence systems and an intelligence consortium that will inform government decision making on strategic or policy issues.
- Establish a centralized, national networking system within the National Intelligence Consortium/Agency to:
- Better coordinate efforts and resources through collaboration of government agencies with the aim of achieving the best possible results, as it relates to the alleviation of crime and the fear of crime
- Build a more integrated and cohesive nationwide security surveillance network
- Gather, assess and effectively use intelligence and data gathered by various government ministries and departments to alleviate and, eventually, eradicate the scourge of crime
- Control passage through ports of entry and Bahamian waters
- Enforce laws regarding illegal drugs and arms entering The Bahamas from its southern shores
- Establish programs to detour young people, particularly young men, from deviant behaviour and towards productive lifestyles.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
- Ensure public ownership of and confidence in the Justice System by addressing the issue of adequacy of resources and participants.
- THE POLICE: Issues and Challenges
- Address the inability to prosecute serious criminal offences firstly, at the level of investigation and the decision to charge.
- Lessen poor decision making at initial charge – largely driven by public pressure – and thus eliminating low conviction rates.
- Increase the use of trained police officers to qualitatively assess evidence collected by investigators with a view to giving a written opinion on the chances of success or failure of a prosecution matter.
- Eliminate the wastage of justice system resources and potential damages for malicious prosecution as a result of poor decision-making.
- Solutions With Timeline
- Early qualitative, realistic evaluation of evidence collected and the decision to charge by trained police officers as a part of an independent Prosecution Oversight Division/Department answerable and reporting to the Department of Public Prosecution of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). Implementation: 12 to 18 months of coming to office, given the availability of legally trained police officers.
- The Prosecution Services: Issues & Challenges The OAG handles prosecution of serious crimes (indictable matters). Available trial time before the Supreme Court judges presiding over jury trials is underutilized. It has been estimated that at least six weeks of trial time is lost before each judge presiding over jury trials due to the conduct of the prosecution of cases. Lack of preparedness for cases set for trial. Backlog of indictable matters presently in the system. Prosecution of less serious crimes (summary matters) is generally carried out by the Prosecution Department of the Royal Bahamas Police Force. Prosecution of summary matters is plagued by continuous adjournments because of unavailable witnesses and conflicts resulting from poor scheduling of defense counsel Solutions With Timeline The OAG will be headed by an experienced law advocate, who will be responsible, among other things, for organizing and deploying teams of prosecutors to qualitatively assess the viability of all existing charges before the court and new matters coming into the system Implementation: Immediately, as a part of the DNA’s “First 180 Days” Initiative. The OAG will be the premier law chambers in the country. The Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecution would be personally responsibility for time allotted to jury trial Implementation: Begin within the DNA’s “First 180 Days” Initiative. Inventory all outstanding indictable matters set for trial to determine the backlog’s size. Implementation: Begin within the DNA's "First 180 Days" Initiative and run for 9 to 12 months, depending on the proper deployment and use of The Bahamas Integrated Justice Information System (BIJIS). Formulate the implementation of prosecution teams comprised of a senior advocate, who supervises two to four medium range advocates and two juniors each to prepare matters for trail. Implementation: Begin within the DNA's "First 180 Days" Initiative. Matters set for trial would be prepared at least three to six months in advance of hearing date. Implementation: Begin within the DNA's "First 180 Days" Initiative and up to 12 months. IV. The Judiciary: Issues and Challenges Judges – Notwithstanding that the trial time before the judges sitting in the Criminal Division are underutilised, some criticize that the amount of judges is inadequate. Each judge sitting in the Criminal Division is entitled to up to one month’s leave each year. When the judge is on leave, his/her court does not hear jury trials. Magistrates- Likewise, magistrates are also entitled to leave every year, during which time, his/her court does dispose of trials. Infrastructure- The provision of a proper facility to house all Supreme Court, along with its Registries and the Court of Appeal. The present situation of courts in New Providence, in a combination of rented and state-owned premises is that they are neither economically or operationally efficient. Human Infrastructure- The work of the Judicial Branch of Government require specially trained staff. However, trained staff are transferred to other Government departments and is further affected by a comprehensive financial commitment to training. The BIJIS is one example of failed training. Solutions With Timeline The amendment of the Supreme Court Act to either increase the present maximum number of judges or to provide specifically for the appointment of acting or reserve judges to fill in for permanent Supreme Court Justice while they are on leave so that the jury courts in the Criminal Division sit for the entire year. Implementation: Begin within the DNA’s “First 180 Days” Initiative, specifically six months. The scheduling of acting magistrate to fill in for the permanent S&C Magistrates when they are on leave, so those courts operate year-round. This will be possible under the new regime of fixed dates for the trial of matters. Implementation: Immediately. Infrastructure- The construction of the judicial complex, as depicted in the winning design of Alexiou & Associates chosen in the late 1990s with any updates necessitated by manpower. The implementation of this will depend on budgetary restraints given the present Government economically and operationally inefficient acquisition and renovation of court room space. Implementation: Immediately. Human Infrastructure- Treating the Judicial Branch of Government in all respects as an independent entity, especially in respect to its staff. The transferring of specially trained staff should be restricted and subject of the Judicial Branch’s. Implementation: Within six months. Human Infrastructure- The immediate implementation of a training program to make all court staff proficient in the use and operation of the BIJIS system. The proper financial recognition of the importance of continually training for staff. Implementation: Within six months.
- The Accused & Their Advocates: Issues & Challenge
- Inability of accused to afford an advocate in indictable matters.
- Complaints by accused about the incompetency and ineffectiveness of some Counsel selected to represent the accused on a Crown Brief. Inadequate, ineffective representation is and can be a ground for setting aside any conviction that results from a trial.
- Perception that some Counsel manipulates the system.
- Accused is paying high costs for Defence, because of constant adjournment of cases.
- Double or triple booking of cases by Counsel.
- Solutions With Timeline
- In the trial of indictable matters, the Bahamas Bar Association to administer a system of legal aid offered by members of the private Bar. For quality control purposes, a retired Supreme Court of Court of Appeal judge(s) will over see the system.
Implementation: Within 12 to 18 months, taking into account the cases already set for hearing where Counsel have already been appointed.
- In civil matters, set definitive dates, requiring lawyers to attend on the set date. If in the event a lawyer cannot attend, the case will be passed on to another lawyer of equal standing to try the case as opposed to the case being adjourned. This would also address the perception of lawyers manipulating the system by doing away with any reasonable possibility of manipulation.
Implementation: Within 12 to 18 months.
- Summary Matters - Solutions With Timelines
- Set definitive dates for trial of summary matters
- Limit the number of matters set for each day so that matters can be completed on scheduled.
- Matters set for the particular date(s) must be tried or dismissed on that date to prevent double booking by defence advocates.
- Witnesses must be given definitive return dates to the police station where their original statements were taken so that they can collect their summons with the appropriate hearing date.
- Implementation: Within 12 to 18 months.
- The Victim Of The Crime: Issues & Challenge
- Victims of crime are often unaware of what to expect from the criminal justice system and, therefore have difficulty understanding the significance of decisions.
- Elapsed time from the occurrence of the criminal offence to trial, prosecution or acquittal is often so great that victim(s) suffer(s) without closure.
- Solutions With Timeline
- Create a victims' ombudsman, separate and independent of the police and the prosecution departments, who will offer victims independent advice and representation if needed.
- Have ombudsman report to a Select Committee of Parliament at least once a year.
- The General Public: Issues & Challenge
- The general public is often reactive to results of the justice system without an appreciation of the reason why the system operates as it does. This lack of knowledge deprives the public of its undoubted right to be effective advocates for improvement in the criminal justice system. It also leads to the public frustrations when seeking to call persons to account or hold persons accountable.
- Solutions With Timeline
- Establishment of a public education course(s), in conjunction with the faculty of law at The College of The Bahamas, The Eugene Dupuch Law School, the OAG, the Judiciary, the ombudsman and the Bahamas Bar Association, to air on public access channel and ZNS television and radio.