USA invests in St Lucia justice system

Last week The United States Embassy announced the donation of office technology worth EC$100,000 to Saint Lucia’s Crown Prosecutions Service. The donation included 28 desktop computers, 12 laptops, 8 printers, 2 scanners and 24 filing cabinets.

I was thrilled to read this news and to see that the Prime Minister, The Honourable Allen M. Chastanet was there himself to accept the donation.

It is clear to everyone, the Prime Minister, the whole Island and now – even other Governments that the criminal justice system in St. Lucia is out of touch, inefficient and uncommunicative.

Will the introduction of this new technology help the Justice department get its act together? I am not expecting overnight changes to the institution - but I am sincerely hoping for incremental cultural changes that will make the experience of dealing with the office more palatable.

My husband Roger was murdered on the Island in January 2014 and the 4 suspects were almost immediately identified and charged. After the pain of my loss – I held on to the only branch of hope I had – that the perpetrators would be brought to trial. A trial where I could be the only significant witness.

I saw and experienced the violence that led to the death of my husband and I have always wanted my day in court where I can look the accused in the eye and tell the court exactly what they did. The consequences of their actions might be well known but I am the only living soul who knows the pain of that night.

But over 1,000 days later I am treated by the Authorities with apparent disregard and certain indifference.

The dates for the trial come and go. I learn of these from the media and indeed from friends who see local notifications. I receive no direct communication at all from the DPP or his department.

It is impossible to describe how it feels to be ostracised from a process that is so important to me. Frustration, yes; hope, always. I want the culture and the process to be improved so that, in the future, anyone unlucky enough to be placed in my predicament has a much better experience and can have confidence in the effectiveness of the systems of justice in St Lucia.

The new computers should be used first and foremost to improve communications with victims and witnesses. These days email and web updates are a way of life. I sincerely hope that along with the new hardware that there is investment available for adequate training on how to make the best use of the equipment – and the performance management arrangements to ensure that training is embedded and becomes part of “business as usual” for the DPP’s department.

But even more important than that – is the hope that the DPP takes the opportunity to do what the Prime Minister asked at the ceremony – namely to get on the judicial horse and ride it for the benefit of all of us who are seeking justice. But I paraphrase – this is what Mr Chastanet said:

Our Government has indicated a clear strategy in terms of how we will deal with tackling crime. There is no one magic solution. The first thing is to take control of the things we can control. The Judicial system is objective number one. There is no point in having police apprehending anyone if we don’t have the ability to convict. In this regard, I really want to congratulate the new DPP on how quickly he has jumped into the saddle and ridden the horse.

Let’s all hope that the DPP starts to change the culture and improve the way that the Criminal Justice system works on the Island. And he might start by acknowledging that justice isn’t happening at the moment for so many people like me.  It needs fixing - DPP Greene are you listening?  Please saddle up and get on with the job – your own Prime Minister demands it, and we echo his call.

Margaret Pratt

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