Outspoken attorney-at-law Anselm Clouden wants the Grenada Parliament to pass legislation to provide for trial by Judges alone in order to reduce the heavy backlog of cases in the system.
Speaking to THE NEW TODAY on Tuesday, Clouden said that a trial by a sitting Judge and not with any jury will significantly reduce the length of time that some cases take in order to be completed.
He said that the Magistrate should be given the responsibility after completing a Preliminary Inquiry into a case involving an accused person to ask the individual whether they want the high court trial to be heard by a judge sitting alone or a judge and jury.
He indicated that this practice is nothing new as it already exists in some of the more advanced jurisdictions like Canada to provide for trial by a judge alone to hear the evidence against an accused person.
He pointed out that a Jury trial can be quite lengthy and as such these countries have introduced into the criminal jurisprudence system “the opportunity of an accused when indicted to determine the mode of trial – he can elect to be tried by a judge alone without the Jury or he could elect to be tried by both judge and jury.”
“This is how it ought to go in our high court. The accused is before the court and the judge is to give him an election,” he said.
Clouden went on to say: “I am advocating that because of the limited resources now in our country and in order to expedite the processing of these criminal offences that an election can be made before the Magistrate when she is going to commit an accused to stand trial at the High Court.
“Section 106 0f the Criminal Procedure Code mandates that if a sufficient case is made out at the Magisterial level, the Magistrate is by law duty bound to commit the accused to stand trial. There is no election as to the mode of trial so she would say I commit you to stand trial at the next sitting of the High Court in its criminal jurisdiction –there is no election.
“I am advocating that at that stage this type of election should be given – that is to say you have an option to say you elect to be tried by a judge without a Jury or you may elect to be tried by a court composed of a judge and jury – how do you elect to be tried?”
Clouden believes that this approach will not only bring “fundamental justice to the process but it will help to reduce the backlog of criminal cases that we cannot – even if we have three judges – exhaust in five years.”
He anticipates that there will be a judge to only hear speedy trials as the constitution of Grenada speaks “to a fair trial within a reasonable time.”
According to Clouden, this new approach should apply to all cases going to the high court including murder.
He said that what is partly responsible for the tremendous backlog in high court cases is that after a Jury delivers a verdict it takes a long time before an accused person is sentenced although the time spent on remand at the Richmond Hill prison awaiting sentence is credited to an accused person.
However, he added that this way of handling the case is quite costly to the government who has to pay to upkeep the person in Prison.
“…What we have to be concerned about now is minimising cost and encouraging efficiency so we get value for money,” Clouden told THE NEW TODAY.