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‘Give magistrates more power to reduce case backlog’ – Erskine

Published:Saturday | November 28, 2015 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas

IMMEDIATE PAST president of the Cornwall Bar Association, Michael Erskine says that resident magistrates should be allowed to determine whether court cases, particularly lottery-scamming matters, have substantial evidence to be taken to trial in order to reduce the backlog in the courts.

"Even recently, we had a lot of matters that could have been dealt with by the resident magistrates, but they had to wait until they could go to the Circuit Court, and these things clog up the list," Erskine told The Gleaner yesterday.

"The resident magistrates should have a kind of clearing-house measure to determine which matters reach certain standards that can go to the High Court," Erskine continued.

Lack of proper investigations

He also said that the lack of proper police investigations in preparing case files for court also contributed to cases being dragged on for long periods.

"When the police investigate the cases, sometimes they do not investigate properly, so when the matter reaches the court and the prosecutor looks at it, there are statements that are outstanding and which should have been in from day one, such as post-mortem reports, investigating officers' and arresting officers' reports," he added.

Attorney-at-law Lambert Johnson has suggested that one way to address the duration of cases and the court's backlog would be to install more judges and courtroom space.

"The wheels of justice are not turning as smoothly and quickly as they should. One of the reasons for this is a shortage of judges and courtroom space, so we end up with what we have now: fairly good judges, but not enough space to do the work in a timely manner."