The Dominica Bar Association has expressed its displeasure with the delays with the resumption of criminal and civil court post Hurricane Maria.
During a press conference held on Thursday, President of the Dominica Bar Association Mary Auriel Roberts stated that they are concerned with the delay in the commencement of courts, specifically after giving alternative solutions taking into consideration the damage of the official buildings.
“On the 18th of September 2017, the Civil and Criminal Court Buildings and buildings housing the Magistrates Courts were severely damaged during the passage of Hurricane Maria,” said Roberts, adding that in November of 2017, members of the public were informed by the officials at the Registry that High Court sessions will resume in early 2018.
“On the 2nd of February, the Executive of the Dominica Bar Association met with the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Immigration and National security to voice our concerns about the delay in resuming High Court Sessions,” she noted.
She then stated that at that time they had requested that an alternative venue be rented by the Government while existing structured were being repaired and noted how they had suggested available locations.
Mrs. Roberts noted that despite numerous assurances form the responsible Ministry, the buildings hosting the high court and the civil court and still in a state of disrepair.
She then stated that 13 months after Hurricane Maria that the Baracoon Building is still in a state of disrepair stating that they had been told that numerous times that the Registry Building housing the Criminal High Court would have been repaired and ready for use.
“As such,” she said, “no high court criminal trials have been held since the Passage of Hurricane maria.”
Mrs. Roberts went on to describe the situation as unacceptable as it affects not only, victims of crime but witnesses, and persons on remand.
She also added the current backlog is also another issue that affects not only lawyers but clients.
“The Dominica Bar Association recognizes that all of these factors operate to undermine the confidence of members of the public in the justice system,” said Roberts as she pointed out that this could lead to various social ills such as “an increase in crime, vigilante justice and a perpetuation of injustice.”