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Institutional strengthening of the Attorney General’s Office in the Bahamas

The Government of the Bahamas requested technical assistance to strengthen the procedural rules and justice institutions of the Bahamas, to ensure improved access and swift justice administration and delivery.

Country: The Bahamas
Host: Attorney General’s Chambers
Start date: 15 June 2015
End date: 30 June 2017
Policy area: Rule of law
Policy expert: Shadrach Haruna
Project manager: Pauline Campbell

Background

The Government of the Bahamas has demonstrated remarkable political will in ensuring the success of its justice reforms by developing some laudable initiatives towards the elimination of justice system procedural bottlenecks. This includes: the introduction of four temporary criminal courts to deal with the backlog of cases; establishment of a bi-weekly justice coordination meeting; commitment to the establishment of case management and victims’ care Units, and a witness protection unit. 

However, the Attorney-General's Office currently lacks the necessary expertise to drive and sustain these initiatives to yield the desired results.

Challenges facing the justice system of the Bahamas, include the following:

  • The absence of an effective case management system both in the Department of Public Prosecutions and the Judiciary;
  • Lack of an electronic database to track and monitor case flow management;
  • Absence of an effective calendaring system to avoid conflicting dates by counsel, thereby leading to adjournment;
  • Inadequate protection measures of vulnerable witnesses and victims;
  • Non-existence of a public defender system;
  • The Case Management Unit lacks a technically trained manager and staff to drive the process;
  • Lack of clear procedural guidelines to assist prosecutors in filing charges;
  • Lack of systematic data management (DPP/Police/AG);
  • No proper records are documented on the number of cases in court or of those that are completed.
Goal

This project seeks to address these challenges by strengthening the procedural rules and justice institutions of the Bahamas, to ensure improved access and swift justice administration and delivery.

Impact

The desired changes or expected impacts of the project, by placing two senior experts in the Bahamas justice system, a criminal justice expert and a court administrative adviser, are procedural, legislative and system reforms, hitherto inhibiting administration and delivery of swift justice.

The provision of knowledge transfer to local personnel will ensure a degree of sustainability and consequent succession planning within the AG’s Office and relevant agencies, notably the Department of Public Prosecution and Police.

Outputs
  • A tracker system has been established to enable the Office of the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions monitor case management flow from inception of the case to conclusion.; Prosecutors are now more responsible, efficient and focused with the management of their cases. There are now less adjournments from an average of 15 per month, when the Justice Experts started to 3 per month.
  • Conviction rate has greatly increased by 50% since the Expert commenced her work.  Public perception of the criminal justice system has improved. Practice Directions for Case Management in the Supreme Court to ensure fewer adjournments, avoiding backlog and improve the convictions rate has been developed and being implemented.
  • Witness Care Policy and Witness Care Road Map developed and approved alongside “Special Measures for intimidated and vulnerable witnesses; Road Map launched by the Hon AG on the 25th June 16; More Witnesses, including vulnerable and intimidated ones are turning up at the trials to give evidence because of the special policy measures put in place to ensure their care and protection. It is reported that the number of witnesses calls per week has increased by more than 300%.
  • Plea discussions and Agreements, Guidelines are now in place and the Practice Direction on Sentencing for Pleas and now being used.
  • Establishment and operationalisation of the Office of the Public Defender, estimated to be fully operational by end of 2016.  This will curtail delays and adjournments at court due to absence of defence counsel; Will give effect to the constitutional rights of the people as the constitution guarantees a “fair trial” to all citizens; It will also cut down on the creation of backlog and ensure swift justice; Drafted Rules and Regulations of the Public Defender has been approved by the AG and Chairman of the Board.
  • Procedural liaison interface, regular meetings with various sections of the Police Force has been institutionalised and is been undertaken to ensure seamless investigations and prosecutions.  This has improved collaboration, communication and cooperation between the Office of the AG and Royal Bahamas Policy Force.  A draft protocol between the Office of the Attorney General and the Police has been concluded awaiting approval and implementation.
  • Finalised Strategic Plan for the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, has been approved by the Attorney-General, and is now being implemented.