Courts welcome new legal year
At least one member of a Bulgarian duo convicted of stealing nearly $20,000 from local banks using fake cards could be brought back to the island to serve extra time in jail.
The news came from Larry Mussenden, the Director of Public Prosecutions, during his address at a special sitting of the Supreme Court to mark the opening of the 2017 legal year.
Mr Mussenden said that extradition proceedings had begun against one of the men, not identified but now in custody in the UK.
Chavdar Bachev and Georgi Todorov initially served just four months for their crime spree, for which they were convicted last April.
The Court of Appeal subsequently ruled that the pair should have served two years’ imprisonment — but the two had already left the island.
“Our department will pursue offenders wherever they may be,” Mr Mussenden told the court, also vowing to pursue employers who owed $45 million in outstanding payroll tax and social insurance.
The opening ceremony once more provided legal heads an opportunity to note the progress of Bermuda’s judiciary, and also to call for reforms.
Ian Kawaley, the Chief Justice, took the occasion to call for the judiciary to be given its own “dedicated voice in Cabinet”, while Trevor Moniz, the Attorney-General, criticised protesters who blocked access to Parliament as not merely breaking the law but injuring “democracy itself”.
Senior magistrate Juan Wolffe decried the lack of funding and resources for the lower courts, which he called “the engine room of our legal and judicial system”.
“The independence of the judiciary becomes meaningless without financial autonomy,” Mr Wolffe told the gathering.
A pilot DUI court is coming for 2017, offering offenders a programme to deal with issues of alcohol abuse.
While the family courts did not see an increase in cases overall in 2016, last year there was a rise in domestic abuse cases and matters involving the care and supervision of children.
Mr Mussenden also requested that the courts get “two full-time judges assigned to criminal matters” to avert delays or a backlog of trials.
And Richard Horseman, the president of the Bermuda Bar Association, lamented that the legal aid system was “broke”, and said there were many in the community deprived of their right to justice as long as they were unable to pursue claims in the courts.
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