Former Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson.
By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE backlog in criminal matters before the courts has been reduced by 322 cases since 2012, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson said yesterday.
Mrs Maynard-Gibson said the number of criminal matters, which stood at 1,059 at the start of 2012, has been reduced to 737 cases as of March 2016.
Mrs Maynard-Gibson also said that conviction rates have doubled, from 31 per cent in 2012 to 69 per cent year-to-date (YTD). Mrs Maynard-Gibson also said that in 2015, seven murders were tried “within 12 months of charge”.
She also said that 232 cases were heard in 2015, 114 more than the 118 heard in 2012.
Mrs Maynard-Gibson also said that the amount of time used for the presentation of a voluntary bill of indictment (VBI) has decreased from 344 days to 70 as of March 2016.
She made her statements during the morning session of the Senate.
Shortly after revealing the statistics regarding the backlog, however, FNM Senator Carl Bethel stood on a point of order and questioned just how much of the reduction was caused by the granting of nolle prosequis, “fumbled prosecutions,” and how many cases were “quietly discontinued without a nolle prosequi.”
A nolle prosequi is an entry made on the record by the attorney general which declares that the Crown will not continue with the prosecution of an individual any further and may be entered at any time before the conclusion of a trial.
“At the start of 2012 the backlog was 1,059 matters,” Mrs Maynard-Gibson said yesterday. “At the end of 2015 it was down to 789 matters. And year-to-date as of March 2016 it is down to 737 matters.
“Progress, madam president by whatever yardstick is used.”
Mrs Maynard-Gibson also said conviction rates have doubled from 31 per cent in 2012 to 69 per cent YTD. She said the increase was due to the “hard work” of the backlog review team, comprised of stakeholders of the government’s Swift Justice initiative, which includes the prosecutorial team, the Royal Bahamas Police Force and “persons from the defence bar.”
“So what do we have, madam president? We have more cases being heard, we have more convictions, we have a decrease in the time to present a voluntary bill of indictment, and we have a systematic decreasing of the backlog,” she said. “Now, madam president, I believe that by any yardstick, that this success is demonstrating that we are moving in the right direction.”
In January, Chief Justice Sir Hartman Longley said more courts would be needed to rid the judicial system of the extensive backlog in criminal cases.
He stressed that the alternative to additional courts would be the disposal of old cases through the nolle prosequi due to “a spike in criminal activity.”
Last year, Mrs Maynard-Gibson said that with 10 criminal courts expected to be up and running, the target for the disposal of criminal cases was 350 or 75 per cent more than what was done the previous year.
Supreme Court criminal trials, she said last year, yielded a 54 per cent conviction rate in 2014 while murder and related offences yielded a 57 per cent conviction rate against a 43 per cent acquittal rate.
In her report on 2015 earlier this year, the attorney general admitted that the 350 case goal was not met but acknowledged that substantial progress was being made through the hard work of all stakeholders involved with Swift Justice.