With protocol duly observed, it is my honour to welcome all our distinguished guests, albeit virtually, to the Turks and Caicos Islands Judiciary’s launch of a historic document: the Criminal Procedure Rules 2021.
In 1969, the Criminal Procedure Ordinance Cap 2.02 was promulgated. Section 74 of the Ordinance tasked the Chief Justice with the making of rules for carrying its provisions into effect. I am pleased to now have the opportunity to put section 74 into effect. These Rules assure a departure of our criminal justice system from the application of scattered rules and procedures by stakeholders, including Judges and Magistrates which allowed for anything but uniformity, clarity and confidence in the judicial process.
To fulfil the mandate in section 74 of the Ordinance, I launched the Criminal Rules Project in November 2020, by putting together a Technical Team with two main terms of reference being, to provide these Islands with Criminal Procedure Rules, and to train all stakeholders on its operation and application. The choice of a Consultant and Team Leader for the project: The Hon. Mrs. Justice Vivian Georgis Taylor Alexander of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, was with the kind assistance of Sir Dennis Byron, former President of the Caribbean Court of Justice and now President of the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute.
Her team comprised eminent persons well distinguished in the delivery of criminal justice in the Turks and Caicos Islands: The Honourable Mr. Justice Shiraz Aziz Judge of the Supreme Court, Dr. Angela Brooks, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, and Mr. Oliver Smith, an Attorney at Law and representative of the Bar Association.
In May 2021, the task was undertaken, and a draft was submitted to me for further input before publication.
I recount these matters to point to the persons whose selfless service has resulted in the production of these Rules, and who are truly deserving of the praise and thanks of a grateful Chief Justice, a grateful criminal justice system, and a grateful nation. The Technical Team of distinguished ladies and gentlemen worked hard in the time of a pandemic to coordinate their ideas between Turks and Caicos Islands and Saint Lucia. They also, as tasked, found a way to consult all criminal justice stakeholders of Turks and Caicos Islands in order to produce a collaborative work.
Should someone require explanation for why it was so important to put these honourable ladies and gentlemen to such an onerous task, especially in a time a pandemic when many services were either halted or operated at low capacity, I will provide this simple answer: that it was in pursuance of the new mission of the Judiciary which is to provide access to quality justice.
Access to justice has been given interpretation in many ways and been given expression to in myriad dimensions, but simply put, it is to ensure that there is justice for all, and that its quality is not compromised in any way, or diminished for any reason. For the ordinary person, to quote that jurist of great eminence: Hewart CJ in R v Sussex Justices, ex parte Macarthy, ( 1 KB 256, it “is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”
To persons connected to, or impacted by a criminal trial, the process matters as much as the result.
Uniformity of practice and procedure, judicial control of the criminal process and proceedings through case management, clarity in procedure, and simplicity in
processes are sine qua non to the perception of justice. Rules provide information to persons both learned and unlearned in the law. The objective is to enhance access to justice by providing transparency, certainty, clarity and access to the procedures which govern the court’s work in the administration of justice.
That is why their production was urgent, even in a pandemic.
Uniformity of practice is essential to instilling public confidence in the criminal justice system generally, and in the judiciary in particular. When it becomes apparent to the community that judges and magistrates are not uniform in their practice, when Court A proceeds in a certain manner in respect of a similar case Court B has dealt with differently, court users are left to draw unfavourable conclusions. For those impacted by our decisions, it matters not to them that the result of a particular case may be favourable to them; it is enough that the system appears to be uncertain, to lead them to the conclusion that it is arbitrary, subject to the whim of whoever presides over the proceedings.
Judicial control of the process provides comfort to persons subject to the trial process. Case management which gives the Judge or Magistrate control over the case produces confidence that offenders, witnesses, relations and other persons impacted by a trial, are not at the mercy of a system with unseen hands arranging and rearranging the lives of alleged perpetrators and victims of crime, but that they are in the hands of a person trained in the law and in the art of adjudication, in whom they can repose confidence.
Clarity and Certainty in procedure produce a sense of transparency. Provisions in these Rules that mandate disclosure, do away with ambush prosecution or defence. While many of us were in our youthful days, hugely entertained by the legal antics of Erle Stanley Gardiner’s celebrated creation Perry Mason and Andy Griffith’s
eccentric but wily Ben Matlock, few would wish, if they were impacted by a trial as defendants, victims, or witnesses, to have surprises that would change the course of a trial, sprung at them.
Simplicity in processes and procedure brings justice not only to the doorstep of all our people, but to the enlightenment of the community. Gone also are the days when the work of lawyers was seen as the preserve of a few super-mortals who alone understood arcane legal procedures.
Today we launch the Criminal Procedure Rules 2021. We also commence a two-day training program on them to equip all users: Bench/Bar, Police, and other stakeholders in their operation, use and implementation.
The training will be conducted by the brightest and the best from the high echelons of the Judiciaries of three countries in the Caribbean Region, and the United Kingdom. The extent of my gratitude for all this could not possibly be expressed in a line or two, but I must be content with a simple expression of thanks to all who have made this vision a reality.
With the Chief Magistrate His Honour Mr. Jolyon Hatmin who co-signed the Rules, and His Excellency Governor Nigel Dakin who allowed him to do so, I thank Your Ladyship, The Hon. Mrs. Vivian Georgis Taylor Alexander and your team: The Hon. Mr. Justice Shiraz Aziz; Dr. Angela Brooks and Mr. Oliver Smith for producing the Rules; We thank all the criminal justice stakeholders for your ideas provided during consultation, and we thank the Honourable Attorney General and her team for their part in the production of these Rules. We make special mention of Dr Gogontle Gatang’s very helpful technical support to the Team and the drafting of the Rules.
We salute the launch organising committee: made up of the Technical Team and the Registrar of the Supreme Court Ms. Renee McLean; we thank you for arranging such
an engaging program, and further thank you for providing us with judicial educators of such sterling reputation and ability.
We must thank the facilitators for the training programme who will in the next two days reveal to us the delights of the Rules, and train us in their operation and application: Specifically, I thank:
1. Mr. Justice C. Dennis Morrison OJ CD QC, President of the Court of Appeal of the Turks & Caicos Islands
2. Mrs. Justice Maura McGowan DBE, Justice of Appeal of the Supreme Court of England and Wales
3. Justice Gillian Lucky, Justice of Appeal of the Supreme Court Trinidad and Tobago
4. Mrs. Justice Kathy Ann Waterman Latchoo, High Court Judge of the Supreme Court Trinidad and Tobago
5. Mr. Justice Patrick Thompson Jr. of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court
6. Mr. Daarsrean Greene, Director of Public Prosecutions of Saint Lucia
7. Mrs. Michelle Theobalds, Chief Registrar of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court
8. Mr. Daniel Francis, Registrar of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court
9. And once again, the Rules Technical Team already named.
I recognise the immense contribution of Sir Dennis Byron to our Judiciary, and thank him for all his help, including the provision of a Consultant and Team Leader to produce these Rules.
Finally, I must thank all our distinguished guests for accepting our invitation to join us to celebrate this march towards the attainment of judicial excellence: His Excellency the Governor, The Hon. Premier, the Hon Attorney General, the Learned
Director of Public Prosecutions, the President of the Bar Council, other members of the Criminal Justice Stakeholder Group, Judges, Magistrates, members of the Media.
On that note, with deep pride in this important work, and deeper expression of appreciation to God who has made this day possible, I declare the Criminal Procedure Rules 2021, duly launched, and I thank you all.
MM AGYEMANG CJ 20/9/21