St Lucia: Amid COVID & low seating capacity of courtrooms, no homicide case heard in past 2 yrs

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Castries: St Lucia’s Director of public prosecutions, Daasrean Greene, stated amid the small courtrooms, no trial of homicide has taken place in the past two years, following which the cases are being piled-up. Regarding the COVID-19 protocols and guidelines, the Caribbean island courtrooms do not have that much space where a jury can sit at a safer physical distance.

While addressing the senior judges, magistrates, lawyers and additional legal officeholders at a gathering, the Director cited, “My office has not been able to embark on a murder trial since January of 2020. There are more than 90 individuals who are awaiting trial for the offence of murder, while we continue to stumble with the difficulty of finding appropriate housing for our courts”.

The gathering was chaired by the chief justice of the Eastern Caribbean supreme court, Dame Janice M Pereira, who cited, “The pandemic has been devastating to the criminal justice system in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. Jury trials have been delayed in many of our member states and territories due mostly to our incapacity to provide the required physical distancing protocols for a jury in many of our courtrooms”.

Meanwhile, the United Nations, in its recently released report underscoring the issue, emphasised that St Lucia does not even have a central judicial building, adding that “Courts are scattered around the city in inconvenient locations”.

Moreover, this further is creating a logistical problem for the lawyers misrepresenting cases in civil and criminal courts, the report of the United Nations highlighted.

“The size of courts, security and several other concerns, that are surrounding repurposed court buildings have led to the protracted suspensions of cases as recently as 2018, with the shutdown in St Lucia contributing to an over 50% decrease in the number of cases heard,” the report adds.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created numerous impacts worldwide, especially on the Caribbean region, racking the economy as well as health infrastructure of the countries.