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Outgoing Chief Justice thanks bench staff and defence bar for help in reducing backlog

Chief Justice Richard Ground praised the lawyers and judges who helped him slash the number of pending criminal trials from 79 to just 21 during his time at the helm.

Delivering a speech yesterday to mark his exit from the post at the end of the month, Mr Justice Ground noted that when he took on the job eight years ago, the number of people waiting for their cases to be dealt with was far higher.

“It took a lot of hard work from everybody; the bench [judges], the defence bar and prosecution,” he said.

“I couldn’t have done it without a strong judicial bench behind me and the cooperation of all, including the defence bar.”

He thanked the Supreme Court staff, prosecutors and defence lawyers he has worked with, but said more needs to be done on law reform in Bermuda.

In 2010, he told this newspaper he would like to see witnesses spared the ordeal of long-form preliminary inquiries in Magistrates’ Court, where they can be grilled by defence lawyers before the case goes to trial at Supreme Court.

The magistrate ultimately decides if there is a strong enough prosecution case for it to be sent to the Supreme Court, but the Chief Justice said he’d like to see cases automatically committed to the Supreme Court, based on the papers.

Defence lawyers could apply to the judge instead if they wanted to argue that the case was too weak to proceed.

Mr Justice Ground said yesterday: “It’s time that preliminary inquiries, particularly long-form preliminary inquiries were abolished, and that will come eventually.”

He said young lawyers will come back from training overseas, where the procedure has already been scrapped, and wish to sweep away the “old and antiquated” process.

He also commented that he would like to see defence lawyers obliged to disclose material relevant to their case to prosecutors, just as prosecutors must already disclose such material to defence lawyers.

“All this enables us to do our job better; we are all in this together, the prosecution, defence and judges,” he noted.

Saul Froomkin (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published March 02, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated March 02, 2012 at 7:55 am)

Outgoing Chief Justice thanks bench staff and defence bar for help in reducing backlog

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