Senior Counsel Pamela Elder speaks out …’PI BILL’ IS BAD LAW

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She is regarded as the authority at the Criminal Bar of Trinidad and Tobago. With a high success rate for the defence, Pamela Elder SC has the experience to speak out on proposed legislation which could affect the smooth running of the criminal justice system.

The system is already in problem and any proposed legislation, which is not regarded as progressive, could effectively shut down justice in this country. Elder came out one week ago and talked about Judge Alone Bill.

On Saturday, Elder was talking about the Indictable Offences (Pre-Trial Procedure) Bill 2017, which seeks to abolish preliminary inquiries from the criminal justice system.

Likening the bill to United States President Donald Trump’s proposed heath care package, Elder insisted that the legislation, though seemingly noble in intent, was fundamentally flawed and should be “pulled back” and revamped. Simply put, it is bad law.

Elder added that the Government should have consulted with members of the legal fraternity and other stakeholders while drafting the legislation.

She said the bill, which required a simple majority for passage, does nothing to minimise the burdens that have long plagued the criminal justice system.

She declared, “My juniors and I have given deep thought to the clauses of this bill and it is our considered opinion that this bill does nothing to address the issues plaguing the criminal justice system. Let me say that the intentions behind this bill seem noble but it is bad law.”

Alluding to statements made by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard at a parliamentary Joint Select Committee meeting on Friday, that the legislation was short-sighted, Senior Counsel added, “But Mr Gaspard is blessed with the gift of the garb and he can use euphemisms.”

She dismissed the bill as “a compilation of legislative babble.”

She added, “It is flawed. It disregards the rights of the accused. It is contradictory in certain respects . It contains a cut and paste approach, in that certain clauses have been pulled from the existing act and placed in this bill without an understanding as to the significance of those clauses which is really cut and paste,” she said.

The Pre-Trial Procedure Bill was passed in the House of Representatives on March 18 with no support from the Opposition Bench. Nineteen Government members voted in favour of the legislation while 16 Opposition members voted against.

Elder also said the bill, “with due respect to whoever drafted it shows a deep misunderstanding of criminal practice and procedure.” “This bill is going to wreck the system. It is a wrecking bill,” she added.

Elder said when she heard Gaspard say at the JSC meeting that there were about 800 murder cases before the High Court awaiting trial, and that if preliminary inquiries were abolished, people will just have to “join the queue,” she immediately thought about MX Prime’s Road March hit, Full Extreme.

“So, even with this bill, we still jammin. And this bill is going to aggravate the position,” she said.

Elder said the problems in the legislation begin from the moment an individual is charged and appears in the magistrate’s court. The issue which immediately arises is what is the jurisdiction of the magistrate over these proceedings because the bill is abolishing preliminary inquiries.”

Elder said she thought the bill would have said, immediately, what a magistrate would do if an accused appeared before him or her charged with an indictable offence.

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PAMELA ELDER SC

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