The 2018 September Criminal Assizes got off to a start at the Number One Supreme Court on Monday and as has been the case in recent years sex-related offences are once again dominating the list accounting for close to 50% of the cases listed for trial.
Addressing members of the judiciary during the opening of the new Law Year 2018, Director of Public Prosecution Christopher Nelson lamented the fact that apart from the heavy list of cases down for trial, the number of sex-related cases appearing on the criminal list continues to be a serious cause for concern, one he said that warrants immediate action.
According to Nelson, the September list comprises 148 cases, 67 of which are sex-related. Also worthy of mention he said there were 29 new cases added to the list, 16 of which he said are also sex-related.
The DPP said the September criminal list comprised, 26 homicides that include 16 murders, the others are manslaughter and death by reckless and dangerous driving.
The court in Grenada has had its challenges over the years in terms of finding stability in one location and after moving from one location to another. The court is now back at its original location, which it had to run from just over two years ago due to moulding and other health concerns.
However, with the original court building now functioning, a second location is nowhere in sight and according to the DPP, the many challenges in dealing with the large volume of cases now before the court combines with a lack of adequate facility. In fact, despite the opening of Law Year on Monday, it was not clear where and if a second court would be made available. These problems among others the DDP said contributes to the undue delay in the delivery of justice, and the heavy backlogs the system now faces.
Despite the circumstances, the DPP assured the court that his office stands ready to deal with the work at hand and called on the judicial officers particularly at the private criminal bar to rise to the occasion with a view of tackling the heavy caseload that is now before the court.
Nelson also suggested a number of ways the court could attempt to deal with the 148 cases listed for trial; among them, he said, a formal plea bargaining would help to expedite certain matters without sacrificing justice. He further called for increased legal representation, particularly at the criminal level, and a formal legal aid system.
The DPP said without additional hands from the private bar in dealing with the situation very little progress could be expected.