By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
“SWIFT Justice is working” was the Attorney General’s response yesterday to the Court of Appeal questioning its efficiency in handling appeal cases.
Speaking to The Tribune at a special sitting ceremony which saw the retirement and appointment of three judges, Allyson Maynard-Gibson said that work is being done to improve the efficiency of the system.
“I think that the Swift Justice project is working” she said, adding that “it is a matter that is really about efficiency in the system. We can’t fix things overnight but I do want to thank everybody who has worked so hard to ensure that we’re moving in the right direction.
“And equally I apologise to those who continue to have high hopes for us and are therefore disappointed when we actually don’t meet those goals. But I want to assure you that all of us are working very hard and we encourage you to support us as we continue to work on behalf of the Bahamian public.”
On Tuesday, 40-year-old Hilfrant Joseph and his lawyer, Romona Farquharson-Seymour, appeared in the appellate court for Joseph’s expected substantive hearing against conviction and sentence for the December 6, 2002, murder of Hawkins Hill resident Christopher Butler.
However, the schizophrenic’s lawyer told the court she had yet to receive submissions from the Crown respondent’s since last month’s proceedings in which they had acknowledged receipt of her submissions.
Appellate court president Justice Anita Allen noted that this was a recurrent issue with the Attorney General’s office in that a different counsel appeared on the adjourned date and was not prepared to proceed because they did not have original possession of the appeal, which results in delays.
“This is not a good way, not an efficient way to be handling these matters,” Justice Allen said, going on to recommend that prosecutors should maintain handling of assigned cases.
“All of these appeals are important and require careful consideration and preparation,” the appellate president added while impressing the need for change.
Yesterday, Mrs Maynard-Gibson said that “our government in 2012 and me in particular in 2012, inherited a system that was broken ... very, very badly broken ... the result of decades of lack of attention, modernisation and so forth.
“I want to say that the persons in the Office of the Attorney General, the public servants also in the courts, have really stepped up to the plate and magnificently have brought suggestions to bear to improve the efficiency of the system. And actually, the statistics show that we’re moving in the right direction. More frequently than not, its well over 60 per cent, almost 70 per cent. Matters actually do come on for trial when they are set down for trial.
“We have brought down, significantly the days it takes to bring a VBI (voluntary bill of indictment), and to bring a matter from charge-to-trial. Also, we have improved tremendously our guilty rate as opposed to our not-guilty rate,” she added.