Understanding the Law
June 29, 2007
The long list and crimes

The 2007, June Assize’s list shows that almost every type of crime is committed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This means that almost every law on the statute book is broken each year. We are all saying that “There are too many crimes in this small country of ours,” but are there any meaningful attempt to find solutions to the problems.{{more}}

During the 1970’s, the Readers Digest, a small Canadian periodical carried articles on the drug problems which afflicted that country, but at that time SVG, “The home of the blessed” had no such problem. Today no one can boast of a drug free society. Other crimes such as murder, robbery and burglary continue to worry us.

Crimes in School

Crimes have spilled over from the wider society to the schools. Administrators have had to scramble for answers. A symposium was convened recently by the Ministry of Education which brought together parents, students, educators and other interested parties. There is talk about introducing metal detectors to prevent weapons in schools and banning the cell phone because of the devious ways in which it could be used by students. We cannot forget that our schools are a microcosm of the wider society and children no doubt would mimic the adult population. It is sad that we have to wait for something to happen before we could focus on certain troubling issues. We know that children are exposed to international media and that they hear about what happens in other parts of the world. We have to be proactive instead of reactive.

Counseling

We have flirted with counseling in the past, sometimes placing persons who are unsuitable to the positions. We need to take a serious look at counseling by appointing personnel who are properly trained and who could make an impact on the lives of children. There should be a partnership with the counseling department in the schools and Family Services. The work of the counselor should be continued outside the school by social workers in special cases. We want to give our children a good life so that they would not carry any burdens on their shoulders into adulthood.

Reasons for the long June List

The Director of Public Prosecution is of the opinion that there are so many matters listed because of the operation of certain magisterial guidelines for criminal matters to be processed within specific time. According to the guidelines, the enquiry must be done within three months of the charges for those persons who are in custody and within six months for those who are not in custody. Granted that the liberty and freedom of the subject must be protected and matters must be done expeditiously, it is hoped that the necessity for speed and the restriction on time do not compromise the necessity for good police investigation.

Plea Bargaining

At the opening of the June Assizes, the presiding judge, Justice Frederick Bruce-Lyle expressed his concern about the long list of criminal matters. He suggested that plea bargaining could be a way to improve the situation. Plea bargaining is widely used in the United States of America and has helped the justice system tremendously. It is a negotiated agreement between the prosecutor and a defendant where the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser offence or to one of multiple offences for some concession by the prosecutor usually a more lenient sentence or a dismissal of the other charges. It is otherwise called plea agreement or negotiated plea

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com