Great to see the passing of this Bill in the Lower House for the establishment of the Criminal Prosecution Service in Antigua and Barbuda!
Criminal Prosecutions Service Bill Passed
By Tameika Malone (Antigua Observer)
The Criminal Prosecutions Service Bill 2017 has passed its first hurdle, the Lower House with “sundry” amendments.
The aim of the Bill is to bring all criminal prosecution under the ambit of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Former Prime Minister, Baldwin Spencer, voiced several concerns in parliament to include the “open- ended” nature of the Bill that gives the DPP’s office, upon authorisation of the Attorney General, leeway to secure funding from other sources outside the government for staff training.
“We are here dealing with criminal prosecution services and while it cannot be true that it is always expected that the government will be funding everything…it’s too open-ended and for what we are dealing with, it is important we seek to clarify what we are talking about and where these funds are coming from. It has to be more explicit than that, it leaves room,” Spencer said.
Mover of the Bill, Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin, said that Antigua and Barbuda is leading the region and many of the clauses of the Bill have already been in existence awaiting the approval to get started.
Benjamin noted that the new unit was the wish of many of his predecessors dating back to Keith Forde, QC, and the government will be implementing most of the recommendations made by Daniel Suter who submitted his National Prosecution Services findings to the previous administration on June 1, 2012.
A more suitable name – the “Criminal Prosecutions Service (CPS)” was selected and the Bill is divided into nine parts and contains 30 clauses.
The purpose of this Act is to establish a framework in which is vested the power to institute and undertake all criminal proceedings in any court, except a court martial, in respect of an offence against any law in force in Antigua and Barbuda, and to secure the protection of the law to persons charged with criminal offences by ensuring that such offenders receive a fair hearing within a reasonable time.
Provision is made in the Bill to deal with criminal proceedings initiated or pending before the coming into force of the establishment of the proposed office of the CPS. The Bill proposes that all criminal cases initiated by police prosecutors or public officers and pending in any court shall continue under the authority of the DPP.
The Bill further addresses and proposes fair and reasonable arrangement to enable police officers, currently attached to the office of the CPS, to decide whether to transfer permanently or return to the police force.