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Acting CJ calls for sex crimes court

A court focused on hearing matters related to sexual offenses would be a “tremendous benefit” for the victims, Acting Chief Justice Vera Watkins said.

During the Opening of the Legal Year on Wednesday, she said victims of sexual offenses often withdraw complaints “after lengthy delays in the court system”.

Watkins said the attorney general, the director of public prosecutions and other agencies involved in matters related to women and children were concerned about delays in trying sexual offenses.

“There is no doubt that it will be beneficial to the victims of sexual offenses to have their matters heard as soon as possible after the event takes place,” Watkins said.

“I am of the view that a court which is focused on matters of this nature will be of tremendous benefit to the victims of sexual assault.”

However, Watkins said it would be necessary to appoint another judge for this to occur as the current judges were inundated with cases.

According to police statistics, rape in The Bahamas increased by six percent in 2018, compared to 2017. There were 55 rapes reported in 2018 compared to 52 in 2017.

Rape on New Providence increased by 22 percent, police said.

More judges

Watkins also said the judiciary requires additional support staff.

She called for an increase in the number of judges, citing the heavy caseloads of the 16 sitting Supreme Court justices.

Watkins said there is a need for four more judges.

According to Watkins, additional appointments are not possible without more courtrooms.

“I hasten to point out, however, that while the Supreme Court Act makes provisions for 20 justices of the Supreme Court, at the present time there are no accommodations available to house an additional four judges,” she said.

“It is my hope that the judiciary will be able to secure additional accommodations in the near future.”

Watkins said that there were too few judges hearing civil cases. There are four civil judges on New Providence and one on Grand Bahama.

She said, “On the civil side of the court, there remains much concern about the length of time that it takes to resolve civil matters.

“The judges hearing civil matters work tirelessly in trying to complete matters in a timely fashion. The reality is that there are too few judges hearing matters on the civil side of the court. There is an urgent need for more judges to hear civil matters.”

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