By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
THE Director of Public Prosecutions Office secured a high conviction rate of 85 percent in 2021 while its use of plea agreements recovered after COVID-19 caused disruption in 2020, according to Director of Public Prosecutions Garvin Gaskin.
He said in a statement: “The office was able to enter into a commendable number of plea agreements with defendants. This meant that resources, including court time and funds were saved, but at the same time the ends of justice were served.”
He added: “The remarkably high conviction rate (85 percent) has been maintained, in spite of the challenges faced due to the pandemic.”
The DPP’s office secured 24 convictions for armed robbery in 2021; nine armed robbery cases resulted in acquittals. There were five convictions for murder, but eight acquittals. There were nine convictions for unlawful sexual intercourse and two acquittals.
There were five convictions for rape as well as for burglary and kidnapping and no acquittals in any of those categories. In total, according to the department’s statistics, there were 96 convictions and 17 acquittals.
Guilty pleas included 17 armed robbery cases, two murders, eight robberies, seven cases of unlawful sexual intercourse, four attempted murders and four rapes, among others. In total, the department secured 72 guilty pleas. The DPP’s office has placed greater focus on plea deals – agreements between a prosecutor and a defendant where the accused agrees to plead guilty to a particular charge in return for a concession – in recent years. There were 41 plea deals in 2016; 96 in 2017; 72 in 2018; 62 in 2019 and 13 in 2020.
Mr Gaskin said his office also cleared “much of the 2020 backlog of (voluntary bill of indictments) that had arisen due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic”.
“It should be noted that some of (the) staff of the office were impacted by COVID-19 and had to undergo treatment,” he said. “This meant a loss of man hours, as the impacted staff had to isolate and/or get treatment. Nonetheless, the office embarked on VBI backlog clearance and achieved its targets.”
Mr Gaskin said his office has worked to build capacity.
“The office offered training to immigration officers on key prosecutorial aspects such as chain of custody, application of judges rules, interviewing of suspects, confessions among others,” he said. “This is in line with the policy for enhancing capacity of agencies that have delegated prosecutorial powers.”
He added: “The office successfully mounted appeals on points of law and public concern before the Court of Appeal. This not only restored parity in the application of the law, but also contributed to the development of constitutional jurisprudence. A noteworthy case is DPP v Canes Villus. This case dealt with the constitutional delegation by the DPP generally, and particularly, in the preparation and execution of VBIs. This developed jurisprudence will go a long way in protecting the constitutional independence of the ODPP. Another noteworthy case is the DPP v Andre Valdes, which declared sentencing principles on manslaughter by negligence, and sentencing principles generally.”
Mr Gaskin said he expects a website for his office to be launched next month to help increase awareness of his office’s mandate and operations.