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Chief Justice Wants More Plea Bargains

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Chief Justice Brian Moree, QC.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Senior Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

CHIEF Justice Brian Moree wants to see greater use of plea bargains in the Bahamian criminal justice system, saying yesterday the country does not have the resources for every case to go to trial.

He said plea bargaining “must be an integral part of any modern criminal justice system and I would strongly encourage a more robust approach to plea bargaining by both the DPP’s (Director of Public Prosecution’s) Office and the private defence bar.”

He was speaking during a virtual press conference yesterday. “What the empirical data shows throughout courts around the world,” he said, “is that no court system in the United States, in Australia, in Britain, in the largest countries in the world, no court system has the resources to bring to trial every criminal case that is filed. It simply cannot happen and it doesn’t happen anywhere in the world so plea bargaining becomes an integral part of the disposition regime for criminal cases.”

Mr Moree said it is encouraging that though the country’s plea-bargaining rate “was quite low,” it has increased in the last three to five years.

A plea deal is an agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant where the accused agrees to plead guilty to a particular charge in return for some concession. The government passed a law in 2008 to allow for plea bargaining in criminal cases. In 2014, a two-day plea bargain conference was held as part of the government’s Swift Justice programme. Director of Public Prosecutions Garvin Gaskin told The Tribune at the time that he did not want to see an overuse of plea deals.

Chief Justice Moree said yesterday: “I would strongly support the judicious and careful and proper use of plea bargaining in appropriate cases in order to manage the backlog, and as I said it has to be an integral part of the system because we cannot take all criminal cases to trial, we just don’t have the resources.

“I’m glad the DPP seems to be focusing on that. I hope that members of the private criminal bar will also focus on it and we will see an increased use of plea bargains moving forward as part of our reduction of the backlog.”

Comments

TalRussell 1 year, 5 months ago

Respect the Chief Justice Comrade Brian on his eagerness to shakeup we colony's dangerously broken judicial system. But must ask of CJ, for his deeper reflecting on this aspect of judicial repair which can only dangerously result in an even a greater number defendants coming before the courts to be boarding the sentencing buses heading up Her Majesty's Slop Bucket Fox Hill Prison. Shakehead a quick once for upyeahvote, a slow twice for not?

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tribanon 1 year, 5 months ago

I guess this means Peter Turquest will soon be doing a whole lot of pleaing and bargaining. lol

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TalRussell 1 year, 5 months ago

Simply put my greatest disappointment is that we colony's newest chief justice comrade Brian seems not to have recognised why the justice system is so colonial designed how much expensive justice can a defendant afford so as NOT to be weighed against and out of the reach against those many of the PopoulacesOrdinary POAL at large who find themselves be caught up in the colony's criminal system.

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DDK 1 year, 5 months ago

This C. J. is a predictably big disappointment...

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JokeyJack 1 year, 5 months ago

It is true fact he has stated, that plea bargains are quite common all over the world. He has made the argument for them, which is that fewer cases have to come to trial. The argument against it (perhaps endorsed by The_Oracle above (i'm guessing)) is that some people guilty of serious crimes, only get charged with lesser crimes. This allows people to commit serious crimes and if they can afford a good lawyer who has the ability to gum up the system with tons of paperwork, then the judge may allow them to plea to a lesser charge. One must note here too, that in some cases the defendant may even get off with the higher charge and pay no penalty at all (except money to his lawyers). The plea bargain system ensures that they at least pay some penalty in the interest of justice.

However, there is another side to the issue. That is that someone who is completely innocent and cannot afford a good lawyer to defend them, may feel hopeless and thus plea to a lesser charge - since they believe they are going to jail anyway. If they are going to jail, then they may as well go for a shorter time. In this manner, many innocent people are "found guilty" of crimes they did not commit - the recent case of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn is a case in point. The media loves to mention that he "pleased guilty" to a couple of charges. Of course he did, and so would you if faced with the alternative that the prosecutors offered him (ie. putting his son in jail also for no reason). So basically he was offered the choice of going to jail, or that he and his son both go to jail.

Finally, there is the issue that IF there is so much crime that we don't have the resources to process it properly in our system of justice - is the answer that we should change our system of justice? That's what plea bargaining does. It changes the entire system. People can no longer "reasonably" obtain a fair trial. They are given a "suggestion" that doing so might not work out so well for them.

IF there is so much crime, should not the answer to it be that we address the source of this crime? Why are people committing crimes? What options do these people have rather than to commit crimes? Do they have access to food and water? How were they raised? Who were their parents? What kind of schools did they attend? What kind of nutrition did they have a child? I'm not saying that we turn into a bunch of apologists and take the view that anyone who commits a crime must have been abused and neglected and therefore they have a rock solid excuse for their behaviour. However, it is normal to weigh both sides of any issue and not turn a blind eye to one. Will the Christian Council allow us to address these issues openly and completely? Or will they continue their call for abstinence only, and that the father is the head of the household (doesn't work too well in a country where majority of kids don't have fathers - LOL).

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