NASSAU, The Bahamas – The mobilization of the Public Defender’s Office within the next 60 days and work on the design of a Pilot for a Restorative Justice (RJ) System that will include the drafting of a new restorative justice framework, are among some of the new initiatives that will be launched by the Office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Legal Affairs.
Officials at the AG’s Office are also expected to “double down” on their efforts to ensure the efficient production of transcripts and the effective use of technology. Special focus is to be given to the implementation of the integrated electronic system for case management, digital recording and scheduling.
The work on the design and support for the Pilot for the new Restorative Justice System will be done in conjunction with the work for the proposed Parole and Reintegration Policy that will be led by officials at the Ministry of National Security. National Security boss the Hon. Dr. Bernard J. Nottage announced Monday that former Bahamian Commissioner of Police and former Bahamas High Commissioner to London Paul Farquharson will chair the Parole and Re-entry Steering Committee. He will be joined by retired Anglican Archbishop, the Most Reverend Drexel Gomez and former Bahamas Christian Council President, Reverend Patrick Paul.
That task of that committee is to propose a policy framework for a parole system and interventions for the seamless reintegration of past offenders into Bahamian society. They have been given a six-month time frame for reporting.
The new initiatives by the Office of the Attorney-General are part of ongoing measures that have been implemented or will be implemented by officials at the Office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Legal Affairs as they continue to strengthen the country’s criminal justice system “so that victims, witnesses and the accused persons are assured that justice is swift and sure.”
Addressing the launch of the Government of The Bahamas’ new Citizen Security and Justice Programme which will ensure that its work continues to get done, Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Senator, the Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson, said her team has been working “very hard” since 2012 to strengthen what she called “a weakened criminal justice system.”
“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,” Mrs. Maynard-Gibson said.
“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 defence counsel, and the inability to convene jurors in a timely and efficient fashion.
“For this weakened criminal justice system, steady increases in crime rates meant overwhelming pressure as the case load also increased over time.”
Attorney-General Maynard-Gibson said hard work has paid off and has led to “tremendous progress being made” from 2012-2015.
She said that since 2012, the team at the Office of the Attorney-General has tracked and monitored both the improvements and inadequacies, which has allowed her Office to respond “intelligently and strategically to the challenges we face.”
Simultaneously, and thanks to the work of the Backlog Review Team, her Office has been able to reduce the backlog of cases by over 100 cases in the past year “and this number continues to grow.”
Attorney-General Maynard-Gibson said the advancements do not stop there.
“In 2012, this Office secured convictions at a rate of only 31 per cent. I can proudly say that in 2015, this rate has doubled to 63 per cent and in 2012 we estimate that only 118 cases were concluded n 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, seven murders were tried within one year of charge. We are moving in the right direction.”
Mrs. Maynard-Gibson said all of this has been accomplished through the Swift Justice Initiative, supported with a technical cooperation grant by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
“Through the Swift Justice Initiative, we have embarked upon a mission and we shall continue to implement wide-ranging reforms in the criminal justice system. 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 the model for the region,” Mrs. Maynard-Gibson added.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Senator the Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson.