Courts idle despite bottleneck of criminal cases

(CNS): Although criminal trials are backed up into the middle of next year, two Grand Court rooms remained empty this week after scheduled trials for serious offences failed to go ahead. In one trial, as reported earlier this week by CNS, the lead police officer in the case against Robert Crawford for possession of an unlicensed firearm notified the parties at the eleventh hour that she would not be on the island, forcing an adjournment to October; and in the second case the crown revealed on Monday morning that it would not be proceeding with its case against Kurt Carter, who was also accused of possession of an unlicensed firearm.

Peter Polack, a local attorney who has been outspoken about the inefficiencies of both the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the RCIPS in the past, described the situation this week as “an incredible waste of precious court resources”, with the criminal courts at a standstill for an entire week.

“Two Grand Court judges now sit idle in an atmosphere where congestion in the Grand Courts has peaked, thanks to the AG’s grand idea to move the Summary Court bottlenecks to the Grand Court by removing the preliminary inquiry,” Polack said, noting that the changes introduced by the attorney general were made with out the necessary support of the long overdue new Grand Court building, additional Grand Court judges or a streamlined and efficient DPP or RCIPS. "Grand Court trials are now being set next year due to the backlog of matters,” he said.

Carter’s case is another in a long line of firearms offences over the last few years that have gone through the courts only to be dropped owing to a lack of evidence. In many cases this is down to crown witnesses refusing to testify once the matter reaches the courts, as was the case on Monday.

The 22-year-old  was arrested following an incident on Hirst Road in Savannah in January when Sean Dunbar was reportedly shot. Charged with attempted murder and possession of an unlicensed firearm, the charge was later reduced to unlawful wounding. However, without the complainant the crown’s case fell apart.

With no back-up trial scheduled, both Court Five and Court One, where Crawford should have been facing trial, were left quiet this week.

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