AG’s Remarks – The Opening of the Kick Off Seminar for the Citizen Security and Justice Programme Loan
|Authored by:||Senator the Hon. Allyson Maynard Gibson|
|Source:||Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs|
|Date:||May 9, 2016|
Today marks an important moment in the fight against crime in the Bahamas. It would not be possible without the hard working team at the Inter-American Development Bank. Thank you Florencia, Michael and Robert. Robert was with us from the beginning – and I thank him for all of his contributions that have led to the success of this project.
I continue to repeat that the work to reform the criminal justice system is not business as usual. I believe it is important to highlight the tremendous progress made between 2012 and 2015.
Our criminal justice system seemed to have been in an impossible state. A backlog of criminal cases had proliferated over the last two decades. The system was slowed by among other things unreliable court transcript production, a shortage of defense council and the inability to convene jurors in a timely and efficient fashion.
For this weakened criminal justice system, steady increases crime rates meant overwhelming pressure as the case load also increased over time.
When our criminal justice system does not function as it should, criminals expect that they will never be held accountable and it becomes harder for citizens to feel confident that criminals will be brought to justice and that their justice system works.
Through the Swift Justice Initiative, supported with a technical cooperation grant by the Inter-American Bank, we have embarked on a Mission and we shall continue to implement wide ranging reforms in the criminal justice system.
The Team at the Office of the Attorney-General has been working hard. Since 2012 we track and monitor both the improvements and inadequacies and this has allowed the Office of the Attorney-General to respond intelligently and strategically to the challenges we face.
Thanks to our Backlog Review Team, we have reduced the backlog by over 100 cases in the last year and this number continues to grow.
In 2012, this office secured convictions at a rate of only 31%. I can proudly say that in 2015, this rate has doubled to 63%. And, in 2012 we estimate that only 118 cases were concluded in the Supreme Court. This past year, 228 cases were concluded, making 2015 the most productive year for the Public Prosecutions side of the Office of the Attorney-General in living memory. And in 2015, 7 murders were tried within one year of charge. We are moving in the right direction.
We have been able to achieve all of this with the assistance of the Inter-American Development Bank and in particular, with the help of Dame Linda Dobbs and her team of experts. They have worked to assess our challenges, provide training and bridge the gap between justice system stakeholders so that we can better collaborate for the benefit of the Bahamian people. They view us as a model for the Region.
The Citizen Security and Justice Programme Loan represents a commitment to continuing this work because there is more to be done.
Our goal is to mobilize the Public Defender’s Office within the next 60 days. We hope to continue to strengthen our partnership with all justice system stakeholders including the Defence Bar (whom I thank for their collaboration) and to focus on truly engaging the Bahamian public in the work of justice system reform.
We will double-down on our efforts to ensure the efficient production of transcripts and the effective use of the technology. Special focus will be given to implementation of the integrated electronic system for case management, digital recording and scheduling.
Finally, in conjunction with the work to propose new parole and reintegration policy lead by the Ministry of National Security, we will work to design and support a pilot for a Restorative Justice (RJ) system which will include the drafting of a new Restorative Justice framework.
Once again, this is made possible through our continued partnership with the Inter-American Bank, but also through our collaboration with our justice system stakeholders and the hard work of the hard working Team of the Office of the Attorney-General.
Together, along with the help of the Bahamian people as witness and jurors, we will continue to strengthen our criminal justice system so that victims, witnesses and the accused persons are assured that justice is swift and sure.