Lack of transportation stalls High Court
Resident High Court criminal judge Birnie Stephenson threatened to write the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Chief Justice as inactivity in her court frustrated efforts in the administration of justice.
On Monday June 30, the jury had assembled as well as legal personnel, and the Clerk of Court was calling the matters listed for the day. One man charged with unlawful sexual intercourse had the matter discontinued by the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, another man charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent and wounding with intent also walked a free man when the state discontinued that matter as well.
Then another matter for indecent assault of a girl under 12 years came up, and there State Attorney Sherma Dalrymple sought an adjournment because witnesses and the accused had not been served. The reason, the office of the DPP had no transportation to get around to summing witnesses to court. Justice Stephenson, after listening to DPP Evelina Baptiste noted that she was coming to the clear view that the administration of justice in Dominica was on the back burner.
And she made reference to an ineffectual handle to a door since the preceding week and problems with her printer. As the profession knew she liked to have her judgements printed right away. Yet she did not have a proper printer and that if she had one it would be out of work every other week.
She added that she had to answer to the Chief Justice. Under the Constitution of Dominica a free and fair trial has to be in a timely manner, and we can only have trials in a timely manner if we can serve witnesses. It was time that the DPP's office had its own vehicle, not something borrowed. The court is important. Without a court there is no country. If jurors decide they are not coming to court we have no country.
Justice Birnie Stephenson described what was happening as a wanton disregard for the administration of justice.
"I am going to put pen to paper to my Chief Justice. The situation is ridiculous," she said.
The May criminal assizes opened on Wednesday May 14, 2014. Justice Stephenson told her registrar to schedule civil matters in the interim because the State was not doing criminal matters.
"We are doing only civil matters", she said.