By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
DAMIAN Gomez, State Minister for Legal Affairs, said in response to the high rate of crime in the Bahamas that the majority of new judges appointed will be assigned to the criminal court.
Speaking with The Tribune, Mr Gomez said in addition to appointing 20 Supreme Court Judges to tackle the current backlog, the government will also ensure that swift justice is made a reality in order to apply a “death blow” to crime.
“We are faced with an emergency type situation, we have got a large number of cases which need to be heard and dealt with. In England after the riots in 2012, within a summer they reported to have completed over 2,000 trials so if they had that level of success and we are only a quarter as successful, we would have hit the back log a death blow and we would be in a position going forward at the end of the fiscal period next year with a much reduced backlog and the prospects of keeping current going forward,” he said.
“This is a response to crime, in fact most of the judges who will be appointed will be for criminal trials. We are hoping that five of the six will be criminal judges. The whole purpose of this is to rid us of the backlog and to make swift justice a reality in terms of crimes that are committed, going forward, being heard within 12 months. We are about to refurbish the Rodney Bain Building and that will house four courts. So that will essentially provide the accommodation for a number of criminal courts and we are still looking for other spaces so we can complete what we need to do to get the physical spaces ready for the appointment of the new judges.”
Last month, Mr Gomez revealed that only 89 criminal cases were tried in the past 12 months. He said the figure is “simply unacceptable” for a system with five criminal courts.
In fact he said with five criminal courts in operation, between 200 and 250 criminal cases should be heard within a year.
Prime Minster Perry Christie also promised during his budget contribution in the House of Assembly that 20 additional judges would be appointed to reduce the criminal backlog. Those judges, according to Mr Gomez, are set to be in place before September.