Based on the recent High Court ruling on the Criminal Prosecutions Service Act – which restricts the Commissioner of Police from unilaterally charging persons – attorneys reportedly are calling for their clients’ cases to be thrown out.
According to attorney Leon Chaku Symister, a number of lawyers who have appeared in the Magistrates Court since the ruling have sought to have their clients discharged.
However, he says, the prosecution is pleading with the Court to adjourn these cases until the situation is sorted out – and instructions on how to proceed are received from the relevant authorities.
Controversy arose over the 2017 law – which was effected on November 15, 2021 – after attorney Wendel Robinson filed a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a client who was being held at His Majesty’s Prison.
Robinson challenged the police commissioner’s authority to bring charges without first obtaining the written consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), as the law prescribes – but which, apparently, was not being followed.
As a result, Symister says, requests by both the prosecution and the defence attorneys have left the magistrates scratching their heads.
Any magistrate who continues to hear cases that fall within the affected period – from November 2021 until the High Court’s ruling – would, inadvertently, be continuing the illegal act, Tabor states.
However, summary matters that fall within the six-months grace period can be rectified easily, he says, by re-filing the charges with the requisite fiat from the director of public prosecutions.
Further, according to Symister, those matters that do not have a statute of limitation on the charges can be replaced with an identical charge under the correct procedure.
While some residents believe that the Police are unable to initiate legal proceedings because of the Court’s decision, Symister says this is not the case. What is necessary, however, is the prior approval of the DPP.