Robinson says latest amendment to Criminal Prosecutions Act is not appropriate fix and AG should have tendered an apology

Attorney-at-law Wendel Robinson says the Government’s move in Parliament last Thursday – to amend the Criminal Prosecutions Services Act, 2017 in order to clean up the current quandary in the courts – is not an appropriate fix for the problem.

On May 18, Attorney-General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin moved an amendment that made correction of the legal error retroactive – in essence, legalizing the illegality, some critics says.

The Magistrates’ Court had found itself in a stalemate after High Court Justice Colin Williams ruled in favour of Robinson, who had filed a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a client on remand.

Such a writ requires a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, especially to secure the person’s release – unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention.  

At the same time, Robinson challenged the right of the police commissioner to bring charges, given amendments made to the Criminal Prosecutions Services Act in 2017 and effected in November 2021.  The changes to the law had transferred responsibility for all criminal charges and prosecutions to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Since his victory threw the court system into turmoil, Robinson

says that at least four people have approached him, asking that he challenge their prosecution by the Police.

Accordingly, the defense attorney says that Benjamin – who is also the minister of public safety – should have used the opportunity, in Parliament, to apologize to the people for the quandary in which he has thrown the system.  

While unable to give a definitive number of people affected by the amendment, Robinson says it could be hundreds of traffic cases; several hundred summary criminal matters; and a few High Court criminal matters.  The numbers can be verified through the Police or the Magistrates Court, he notes.

Robinson says some of these will have to be sent back for re-indictment and recommitted to the High Court, and that many would already have resulted in convictions and revenue for the Government.

He agrees with Prime Minister Gaston Browne that the hiccup with the Act was a procedural error – but, he says, one of damning negligence on the part of this Administration.

According to the attorney – a former police commissioner – there is an existing court challenge from a person seeking remedy for their illegal prosecution.

Earlier, the Government had announced that it was going to appeal the High Court decision in favour of Robinson – which several attorneys had said could not be done; and, thus, Benjamin was forced to take the latest legislation to Parliament.