• 10 FEB 2017

Government Tackles Backlog Of Cases In Our Courts

Several much-needed improvements are coming to our justice system that will resolve staffing shortages, introduce stiffer penalties for misconduct and ensure the efficient use of court time.

The slow movement of cases through the justice system has created many serious problems, including overcrowding in the remand prison.

When cases move at an unacceptably sluggish rate through the courts, both the accused and victim are denied justice and immense pressure is placed on the entire system.

Over the last year, the Government has been working on a number of initiatives to alleviate these problems. These solutions include:

  • The implementation of the Criminal Procedure Rules on April 1st which will improve case management as it institutes penalties for those who fail to make timely submissions to the court. When its counterpart – the Civil Procedure Rules – was introduced, it reduced the average time a case spent in civil court from 10-11 years to one to two years.
  • An amendment to the Legal Aid and Advice Act which will work in tandem with the Criminal Procedure Rules. The new law will stipulate the mandatory assignment of a public defender to an accused person in the event that their chosen attorney repeatedly fails to appear.
  • The Government urged the Judicial Legal Services to address the abysmal understaffing at the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) office. The Chief Justice has confirmed that 33 new lawyers have been recruited and will begin work shortly to dramatically reduce the backlog of cases in the system.
  • Amendments to the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act will change many of the current offences under the Act to violations. Violations, unlike offences, do not require court time and will attract fines instead. This move is expected to free up significant resources as the traffic court currently deals with more than 23,000 cases a year.
  • The Commissioner of Police together with a unit in the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Judiciary is in the process of establishing a national prosecution management system that will provide police prosecutors with the support they need to prepare their cases on a timely basis. Once officers are prepared it will reduce the number of unnecessary adjournments which contribute to delays.

The Government is committed to improving the delivery of justice in Trinidad and Tobago and these are just some of the steps that it is taking to revamp this critical public service.