June 25, 2004

Coping with the challenge

The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is mandated by our constitution to prosecute the Criminal Law.
Essentially, the D.P.P is entrusted with the loaded responsibility of ensuring justice and fair play in criminal trials. {{more}}His prosecutions must attain the high bar of making the jury feel sure of the guilt of the accused. His success or lack thereof in securing convictions must not be the measure of his competence and we feel it is high time that ghosts be laid to rest. It may be simply put by saying that he is professionally obliged to assist the cause of justice whenever and wherever the need arises.

Some Recent
Criminal Cases

In some recent high profile criminal cases the D.P.P’s failure to secure convictions has caused public consternation. This, certainly, is no indictment against the able and fair-minded Colin Williams, our acting D.P.P. The public focus is concentrated on the facts which they have heard and which seem to be overwhelmingly in the D.P.P’s corner. It is common knowledge that in criminal cases the outcome goes well beyond the facts. At the heart of a criminal prosecution lies a crucial interplay of forces which may serve to enhance or destroy a D.P.P’s prosecution. Among the more important of these forces are:
1) Poor investigation resulting in less than water tight evidence to withstand the expected courtroom challenges.
2) The lack of quality or even adequate resources of a human, scientific, technical, technologic and material nature.
The truth is that the D.P.P’s hands are virtually tied by the statements taken at the preliminary inquiry, which form the basis of his case at the actual trial before judge and jury. At the preliminary enquiry the police prosecutors collect the evidence given in deposition form after they themselves have done the investigative work. Even with a sound judgment call, the evidence when attacked, is at times unable to reach the compelling and convincing standard to ground a conviction.

The Rule Of Law

Although for the most part prosecutors in the magistrate and the High court secure convictions on the strength of evidence, we need a lot of tightening up to make sure that the guilty receive their just deserts.
Tightening up may well mean employing a cadre of bright minds equipped with the necessary tools to do the job and plugging the loopholes where they exist. If criminals, when apprehended, can expect to win their day in court by reason of the exploitation of the inherent structural weaknesses in the system, it may well lead to the undermining of the rule of law which is the very oxygen in our democratic way of life and therefore absolutely vital to our existence among civilized nations.