The court backlog in The Bahamas cannot be eliminated without the assistance of other stakeholders, Chief Justice Brian Moree, QC, said.
“We have a lot to do in the judiciary and we are focusing on it,” he said outside Government House following the Queen’s Birthday Honours ceremony.
“We are introducing a major technology platform across the judiciary in order to try and improve our efficiency. We are looking at our work processes in order to rationalize them, in order to do things more efficiently. We are working on productivity targets for judicial offices.
“…So, we’re doing everything we can. There’s a lot of work going on. It’s been a very busy six months. But we are going to need the assistance of all the other stakeholders if we’re going to make a serious dent in the backlog, because, as I said, the courts can do so much, but we can’t do everything. And we are dependent upon these other agencies that need to be addressed if we’re really going to accomplish our objective and try and eliminate or certainly reduce the backlog.”
Moree said those other stakeholders include the criminal investigations unit. He said the lack of sufficient pathologists in the country as well as a DNA lab prolongs the amount of time it takes to bring cases to trial.
“First of all, the reason why it takes so long for cases to come to trial, and let’s talk about the criminal side for a moment, involve a lot of factors that are not directly under the control of the courts,” Moree said.
“For instance, in criminal cases involving the death of an individual, you have to have the pathologist report.
“Now, unfortunately at the moment, we only have in the country, I think, a very small number of pathologists. And, so, we are having difficulty in the courts getting the pathologist reports in order to facilitate the trial. Also, when you have forensic evidence involved, DNA evidence, this evidence has to go away to labs and this can take sometimes as long as a year to get your DNA evidence back. So, no matter what we do in our court system, trying to make it more efficient, reduce the waiting time, we will not be able to bring these cases on for trial until we can get these other factors sorted out. Same thing with firearms, which involves forensic evidence, where you have to go to the lab, and some of this is done locally.
“The other issue is the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP). So, the DPP is responsible now for prosecuting these cases.
“They have their own issues that they are addressing, shortage of staff and financial constraints, so, you know, the Crown has to be ready. And, of course, then we have the criminal bar. The lawyers who practice on the criminal side, they also have scheduling conflicts which we have to accommodate as far as possible.”
Moree said the judicial system is doing all it can to solve the problem, which is a global one.
“It’s no comfort to us, but every court system in the world has backlogs,” he said.
“It is a perennial problem for court systems. Now, we are applying a lot of our resources to try and reduce it.
“You look at a backlog reduction strategy and if at some point you get to a point of eliminating it, then you’re doing very well.”
The court system has been experiencing serious backlog issues since 2002.
In 2012, former Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson disclosed in the Senate that she believed over 400 people charged with murder since 2002 were still on bail.
In March, Supreme Court Justice Bernard Turner said an outside entity has been chosen to evaluate the Supreme Court’s system in order to address ongoing backlog issues.