Members of the Public Prosecution Office and related law enforcement personnel attended a seminar on Wednesday, Sept. 1, to discuss the possibility of introducing a Code for Crown Prosecutors into local legislation. During an exclusive interview with The Observer , Dan Suter, the British High Command’s Criminal Justice Advisor to the Eastern Caribbean said the Code would enable greater transparency and fairness in public prosecutions. Suter led the discussion during the one-day seminar. “I am here to discuss and promote the use of a Code for Prosecutors in the hopes that it would enable transparency and also justification for charging persons and entering them into the criminal justice system. Therefore, it’s going to create more information for the public to understand why persons are charged, why persons may not be charged and also makes sure there is impartiality in the prosecutor,” he said. Suter informed that the Code would establish a two-stage test — an evidential stage, followed By consideration of the public interest. “The evidential stage relates to why persons are charged, so that there is a reasonable prospect to conviction; if there’s anything less than that, nobody would be charged. The second stage would be in relation to the public interest, because it’s never been the case that everybody, even if it reaches an evidential standard, must be charged. Therefore, prosecutors will be able to review decisions to charge and determine whether it’s in the public interest,” he said. This, he explained, would then create fairness in the criminal justice system for witnesses, victims, defendants, and those who work within the criminal justice system. “What the code hopes to create is that sense of fairness that the right matters are prosecuted. Being a prosecutor isn’t an easy job and there are very difficult decisions that can be made, whether it’s a very complex case, or a serious case, or one that’s in the media. The Code therefore creates a better criminal justice system, where those that should be prosecuted are prosecuted and convicted, and those that should be acquitted are acquitted,” he said. Suter noted that the objective of the Prosecutor’s Code was not to increase or decrease the number of cases brought to trial By the Public Prosecutor’s Office, but to make the system more efficient so the right persons are prosecuted. “What I have within the Code is how a decision is made, and equally when a defendant offers a guilty plea to some matters and not to others, then the overriding interest in terms of being objective and fair and establishing the public interest. For example, somebody may have already pleaded to one serious matter, therefore is it in the public interest to proceed to that second matter? So, it is also to make sure somebody isn’t over prosecuted,” he said. Director of Public Prosecution for St. Kitts-Nevis Pauline Hendrickson spoke with The Observer , saying that the Prosecutor’s Code could better clarify the role of the prosecutor and the principles By which they make their decisions to go forward with a given case. “This discussion on the possibility of introducing the Code includes training for prosecutors, Crown Counsels and Police Prosecutors, including traffic and criminal prosecutors, because we also want to establish a better relationship with the police in terms of prosecuting. In terms of charging, we would look at why we are charging a person, because when you look at the evidence you have to have enough to prosecute and secure a conviction. If at the end of the day you don’t have enough evidence to secure a conviction, you have to consider whether it is worth the while to use limited resources. It takes time and money to prosecute cases,” she explained. Although the Code would relate to all aspects of public prosecution, including the public interest, DPP Hendrickson said that would not determine which cases get prosecuted. “In looking at public interest, that does not determine whether or not we prosecute somebody because the main thing is if we have enough evidence against this person. If there is not enough evidence, regardless to what the public may say, the prosecutor has to be fair to the accused in saying that we know we do not have enough evidence and therefore should not drag that person into court. The Code also speaks to prosecutorial processes including witness and victim care, and under what circumstances do we object to bail,” she said, adding that prosecutorial ethics were also included since public prosecutors should not attempt to secure convictions By discreditable means. Suter told The Observer that he will be present in the region until March 2011, and will assist with implementing the Prosecutor’s Code in the various jurisdictions.
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