A release from government stated that these changes have been incorporated in the Magistrate’s Code of Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2011, which was introduced by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice & Legal Affairs, Patrice Nisbett, when the National Assembly met here on 12th August, 2011.
Chief among the changes to come is the abolition of Preliminary Inquiries, (PIs).
In abolishing the PI’s, Clause 3 of the Bill seeks to amend Part IV of the Act by replacing the title of that Part with a new title to be known as “PART IV – COMMITTAL PROCEEDINGS.”
Clause 4 of the Bill seeks to amend section 47 of the Act by replacing that section with a new section that defines the words “committal proceedings” and “deposition.”
Clause 5 seeks to replace section 48 of the Act so that the words “a preliminary inquiry” wherever they appear are replaced with the words “committal proceedings.”
Clause 6 of the Bill seeks to introduce four new sections, namely, sections 48A, 48B, 48C, and 48D. In that connection, section 48A seeks to make provision for the procedure to be followed in instituting committal proceedings, and this is to be done under the direction of the DPP by filing certain documents and exhibits.
Section 48B seeks to make provision that gives an opportunity to an accused person to file statements in reply.
Section 48C seeks to make provision that would empower a Magistrate to commit an accused person for trial by jury on a charge of an indictable offence if the Magistrate is satisfied that the charge is supported by evidence contained in the documents referred to in sections 48A or 48 B etc.
Section 48D seeks to make provision that would require the Clerk of the court to mark exhibits produced pursuant to the provisions of sections 48A or 48B, and to keep such exhibits in safe custody until the same are delivered to the High Court at the trial of the accused person.
Clause 7 of the Bill seeks to amend section 49 of the Act by inserting immediately after the word “guardian” the words “or an adult next of kin,” while Clause 8 of the Bill seeks to amend section 50 of the Act by inserting immediately after the word “guardian” wherever it appears in that section the words “or an adult next of kin.”
Clause 9 of the Bill seeks to introduce a new section 50A in order to allow the prosecution to inform a Magistrate dealing with a charge, which may be both an indictable offence and a summary offence, whether the charge is to be tried on indictment or summarily, in which case the Magistrate will have to make an order to deal with the case in accordance with that information.
Clause 10 of the Bill seeks to replace section 51 of the Act in order to make better provision relating to an adult person who pleads guilty or consents to be tried summarily in certain cases.
Clause 11 of the Bill seeks to amend the Act by replacing section 52 in order to make provision for substitution of indictable charges of a likely kind and Clause 13 of the Bill seeks to replace section 54 of the Act in order to empower the Magistrate to adjourn and remand an accused person during committal proceedings.
Sections 55, 56, 58, 59, 60, and 61 are to be repealed in Clause 14 since they will no longer be applicable upon the abolition of the preliminary inquiries.
Clause 15 of the Bill seeks to replace section 62 in order to empower the Magistrate to make a final decision on committal proceedings.
Clause 16 of the Bill seeks to amend section 66 of the Act in order to specify the offences in respect of which an accused cannot be granted bail by a Magistrate.
Finally clause 15 of the Magistrate’s Code of Procedure (Amendment) Act seeks to amend the Act by introducing two new sections 73A and 73B. Section 73A seeks to make provision for the admissibility of written statements in committal proceedings, while section 73B seeks to make provision for the display of notice of result of committal proceedings.
The draft Magistrate Code of Procedure (Amendment) Bill is available at www.cuopm.com.