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Top prosecutor calls for more criminal justice funding

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Cindy Clarke, the Director of Public Prosecutions, gives a speech during the start of the 2023 legal year (Photograph by Jason Swan)

Bermuda’s top prosecutor yesterday called for increased funding for the criminal justice system, which she said was “under attack”.

Cindy Clarke, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said failing technology and a lack of infrastructure made an already difficult job close to impossible.

Ms Clarke, speaking at the official opening of the 2023 legal year in the Supreme Court, told the assembled judges, magistrates and lawyers that these problems compounded challenges faced with reluctant witnesses and lack of treatment for offenders with mental health problems.

Bar none: Bermuda’s judges, magistrates and lawyers gather at the Supreme Court today. (Photograph by Jason Swan/DCI)

Turning to Bermuda’s politicians, she said that “those who seek to criticise the system should know what restricts the system”.

She said: “I cannot speak for the bench, but I know that we at the criminal bar are tired of just making do.

“I make these pleas to those in Parliament who pass these laws and then don’t provide the funding to use them effectively.

“The same people passing sly comments from the safety of the House about innocent people being put in prison and complaining about where our judges park their cars.”

Ms Clarke said the court’s criminal division suffered from a lack of proper funding, making it the Government’s “ginger-headed stepchild”.

She explained that while legislation allowed remote testimony and recordings of police interviews during trials, the projectors needed to play them did not work.

Ms Clarke said the video projector in the Supreme Court in the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building was “temperamental at best, as is the wi-fi connection”.

She added: “Here in Court 1, the screens have this very eerie green glow – but we make do.

“There is a TV that literally I and a clerk or I and an usher have to physically raise and put on a table for the jury to see.

“And I do mean me – there is no time to stand on ceremony; it has to be done and someone has to do it.”

Hearing: Chief Justice Narinder Hargun, centre, sits at centre at a ceremony to start the 2023 legal year (Photograph by Jason Swan/DCI)

Ms Clarke said that the lack of proper interview rooms for sensitive witnesses, such as children or victims of abuse, forced court staff to record testimony in judge’s chambers.

She added that outside forces, when combined with a lack of support, made it even more challenging to enact justice.

Ms Clarke explained: “Our people are being killed and witnesses are too afraid to testify for fear of being labelled as a snitch and having their picture go viral on a social-media post.”

She added: “For our serious offenders with mental health challenges, there is nowhere for them to be kept to receive the treatment that they require – and again, it is the criminal justice system that has to make do.”

Alexandra Domingues, the Supreme Court Registrar, said in June last year that estimates to improve the courts system ranged between $3 million and $5 million.

David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, has noted the challenges and costs of repairs. He said that they would be considered as the Government reviewed finances for the 2023-24 Budget.

Big wigs: Chief Justice Narinder Hargun is joined by judges, magistrates and lawyers at the opening of the 2023 legal year. (Photograph by Jason Swan/DCI)

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Published February 11, 2023 at 8:05 am (Updated February 12, 2023 at 6:57 pm)

Top prosecutor calls for more criminal justice funding

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