CJ hopes to establish sexual offenses court by March 2022

Chief Justice Sir Brian Moree said yesterday that he hopes to establish a court to focus on sex crimes by the end of March 2022.

“I hope that the executive branch of the government would fund my plans to have a sexual offenses court,” Moree said when called for   comment.

“So, that’s the first point, to get the funding approved by the executive branch. Secondly, to identify the court building — and I already have something in mind for that — and to make some minor renovations in order to ensure that the circulation flows are consistent with the operation of the court.

“Thirdly, to actually launch the sexual offenses court by the end of the first quarter. That is what I would define as substantial progress. So, we will have to see how that complies with the funding priorities of the government.”

Moree said he has already “incorporated this thinking” into his assignment of judges for next year.

He said he has discussed his plans to establish the new court with Attorney General Ryan Pinder, who was appointed to the position after the Progressive Liberal Party won the general election in September.

Moree said the matter is under “active review”.

“The idea is that we would provide a separate standalone courtroom which would separate the persons who are involved in these matters from the rest of the criminal justice system,” he said.

“This is in line with international best standards, so that persons who are victims or survivors of sexual offenses are provided some degree of privacy and confidentiality.

“The way the court is structured has got to be a little different to ensure that the circulation flows, keep the various parties separated from one another. So, it’s more than just finding a building.”

He said whatever building is chosen to house the court will have to be customized to ensure its circulation flow and operations are in line with the international standard for such courts.

Moree said the setup of the sexual offenses court will have to protect all participants in the proceedings. 

The Bahamas has a longstanding issue with sexual violence.

Nearly 66 percent of the more than 1,800 sex crimes reported to police in the last 11-plus years remain unsolved.

Between 2010 and 2019, of the cases that were solved, and made it to the Supreme Court in Nassau, defendants were discharged in 34 percent of them after prosecutors entered a nolle prosequi (decision not to prosecute).

Director of Public Prosecutions Garvin Gaskin said such cases are usually abandoned by prosecutors because, in most cases, the long wait time for trial discourages victims from wanting to move forward.

“We cannot have a scenario where someone who is subject to a traumatic event, harrowed experience, is then faced with having to deal with something like that five years later,” he said.

“We’ve had experiences where persons have said just that, ‘I’ve moved on. I’m not going to relive that. I’m now married and my husband doesn’t even know about it.’ And so, the time-sensitivity that these trials take to come on is a challenge.

“And so, when that virtual complainant says that, ‘He did it. I maintain my position but I’m not going to relive it. I’m done. I’ve healed to some extent and I’m not going backward’, we have to shut it down.”

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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