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Kamla: We’re not supporting trial by judge alone

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Opposition yesterday turned its back on a bill which seeks to allow accused people the option to have a trial by judge alone.

The legislation was presented by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Faris Al-Rawi.

The measure seeks to speed up the delivery of justice by having the matter heard before a judge alone. It also seeks to reduce to cost of justice.

But in contribution to yesterday’s House of Representatives debate , the Leader of the Opposition,Kamla Persad-Bissessar said her 18 members would not lend support to the legislation. The Opposition voted in favour of it in the Senate. Persad-Bissessar began by telling legislators she was prepared to give support to the measure but on further consideration she realised it contained “fundamentally flawed positions.”

Persad-Bissessar said the suite of legislation brought by the Government to deal with the criminal justice system had become very sour.

She said the measure was brought at a most inappropriate time as the population had little confidence in the Judiciary.

The Siparia MP said the Government was trying to amend a section of the law that was struck down by the court. That claim was later dismissed by a Government source, who said the High Court ruling was overturned by the Court of Appeal.

Also contributing to yesterday’s debate was St Augustine MP and former Congress of the People (COP) leader, Prakash Ramadhar , who said he “cannot support the death of fair trials in this country,” adding the bill was “nothing short of the sharp edge of a spear that is long and is painful.”

Ramadhar said it was clear that the bill was part of the Government’s intention to remove trial by jury in all matters.

Ramadhar said the legislation was not fit or proper, adding that there seems to be “an arrogance besetting us all that suggests the common man is a lesser human being in the society. That the only interaction that the common man in T&T will have in the judicial process is either as a victim , a witness or an accused. He will have no involvement in the judicial process other than that.”

According to Ramadhar , the judicial system in T&T was “a messy one.”

He added that there was no pristine belief that every case is rightly decided or that every case is wrongly decided. He insisted the existing jury system was the best system that we now have.

Ramadhar said it was being interfered with for no good reason.

Dealing with judges, Ramadhar told legislators: “Let us not for a moment believe that because they are called Lordships they are perfect or that they are unbiased.”

He said: “Every human being has preconditioned approach to matters- every single one of us- and whatever comes to us it is through that filter of your life’s experiences that you interpret it.”


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