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Concerns Supreme Court ‘potentially unsafe’

Attorney General Trevor Moniz stated an increasing number of “multi defendant and factional cases” in the Supreme Court present “a potentially unsafe environment for staff, Judges, Magistrates' and the public at large,” and expressed hope a purpose built facility could be planned for.

He made the statement on Friday afternoon during his presentation of the Ministry of Legal Affairs' Budget Brief for the Bermuda Judiciary in the House of Assembly.

Mr Moniz told Members of Parliament: “Should the increase in multi defendant and factional cases continue ... we shall have to consider more permanent measures for our Supreme Court.” He also called the current facilities for jury trials “unsuitable and inadequate,” adding: “ ... hopefully a plan can be developed in the medium term for a purpose built facility.”

He had explained: “We have dealt with a few multi-defendant trials without incident, but are increasingly faced with a growing number and in size,” and added that the Ministry continue to monitor the level of security threat “ ... in respect of individual trials where appropriate.”

Describing security issues, he said: “Due to the increasing number of violent high risk individuals being brought before our Courts for gun and weapon offences, coupled with the presence of friends and family members, along with those of their victims, presents a potentially unsafe environment for staff, Judges, Magistrates' and the public at large.

“We continue to review the needs for extra security devices including cameras and additional metal detectors and in view of recent crime, we have taken extra measures where necessary and installed temporary metal detectors provided by private security on a case-by-case basis.

“We continue to monitor our needs to protect our Courts and the people and public who use them. In the Supreme Court, where we don't have permanent security personnel in place we continue to work with the police and private security to ensure that adequate measures are implemented.”

The Shadow Minister Michael Scott in his reply to Mr Moniz's report, acknowledged the issue. He noted: “The Chief Justice wishes to have the courts and the staff be adequate for purpose.”

The Attorney General also reported that there is no backlog with criminal cases in the Supreme Court.

“The listing of cases has been maintained at three months where possible, and on some occasions during the year within one month of the arraignment session. This optimum level is dependent on the number of indictments filed, the number of multi-defendant trials and the length of individual trials.”

The trials also arose during the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) budget report, with the Attorney General calling 2014-2015: “ ... another demanding year for the DPP.”

He said: “The department's staff continued to experience an unusual increase in workload due to the increase of serious/complex trials including those which are gang related as well as gun crimes.

“Increasingly we are experiencing trials with many defendants and thus requiring many defence counsel.

“Further, serious trials involve increasingly complex forensic evidence and sometimes now require the use of protected witnesses which can lengthen trials.”

He said the department's Crown Counsels are working on back-to-back prosecutions of cases, but said they have had: “ ... considerable success in the prosecution of most of these serious/complex crimes.”

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Published March 16, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated March 16, 2015 at 9:18 am)

Concerns Supreme Court ‘potentially unsafe’

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