More than a dozen women were part of a group of 47 remand prisoners who yesterday indicated their willingness to plead guilty to their crimes.
The prisoners, who are on remand for serious offences including murder, robbery and fraud, appeared before High Court Judge Gillian Lucky in the Port-of-Spain High Court as part of a special initiative by the Judiciary to help reduce the backlog of cases in the criminal justice system.
The initiative was launched last week when a batch of 55 inmates signed on to the new programme. The accused are either seeking to plead guilty or want a Maximum Sentence Indication (MSI) (where a judge indicates the possible sentence ahead of the guilty plea) to assist with their decision.
During yesterday’s hearing, Lucky sought to determine the status of each person’s case and whether they had legal representation.
In most of the cases, Lucky was informed that delays due to issues with the filing of indictments against them.
The procedure is required to have the case listed for trial before a judge and jury. The inefficiency usually stems from delays in the transferring of evidence from accused persons’ preliminary inquiry to the DPP’s Office, which is required to file the indictments.
As she assessed each case, Lucky informed the accused that High Court Registrar Nirala Bansee-Sookhai was participating in the initiative as her office would contact staff at the magistrate’s courts, where their preliminary inquiries were heard, to ensure that the process is completed.
A handful of the cases were almost ready to proceed with and Lucky said they could be dealt with in the fast-track court initiative, which will operate next month during the Judiciary’s annual vacation, between July to mid-September.
Several of the accused awaiting trial for murder were informed that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) will have to decide if their cases fell under felony murder category. In cases of felony murder, judges are allowed to waive the mandatory death penalty in cases where death resulted in the commission of a lesser criminal offence, which in most cases is robbery.
As many of the accused on robbery and sexual offence charges complained of not being able to access bail while awaiting trial, Lucky said she would consider their applications for bail variations at a later hearing.
However, she was careful to note that she could not guarantee that the applications would be approved.
The accused were ordered to return to court for a next status hearing on October 18.