One such new action recently taken by the governing Labour Party Administration is the introduction of the National Prosecution Office, which has been explained as a decision to bring the prosecutors in the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force under the direction of the Director of the Public Prosecutions (DPP).
For the government this is a positive and constructive measure that is aimed “to expand, strengthen, enhance and consolidate the prosecution resources in the Federation.”
Director of Prosecution, DPP, Pauline Hendrickson, said the Code for Prosecutors establishes the principles of conducting a prosecution. However, some political observers who question the real intentions of the government claim that there are more sinister ploys being considered. For them, it is another measure to bring tighter control of the judiciary, under the direct influence of the Labour Administration, to help further its cause, rather than that of the citizenry.
It is claimed that recent actions by the office of the DPP to not proceed with charges against someone who is known to be a close supporter and operative of the government, is a clear demonstration that the Labour Administration is willing to stifle the efforts of private citizens to seek justice in the court of law. In addition, the case a few years ago that was also terminated by the DPP office, against a key public relations strategist from overseas, who was alleged to have accosted a female police officer, serves as another example of the desire to use state power to influence certain legal proceedings.
However, in a recent speech, the current DPP, made the case that “The decision whether or not to prosecute an individual is a most important one. It is vital for the suspect, vital for the victim and vital for the community as a whole. Great care must be taken by those who decide these issues, always remembering that wrong decisions may destroy lives and undermine confidence in the criminal justice system,” said the DPP, pointing out that the modern prosecutor is expected to discharge his or her duties with professionalism, skill and vision and to operate within the parameters of defined and clear prosecution policy guidelines.
Mrs. Hendrickson said high qualities are expected of the modern prosecutor – good judgment, complete integrity, an innate sense of fair play and an instinctive sense of right and wrong. Fearlessness is also an essential quality, for prosecution decisions are often controversial and the prosecutor must have the strength of character to resist criticism from whatever quarter, no matter how strident or painful.
Hendrickson contends that the judgment of the prosecutor must never be overborne by political, media or public pressure. The profession of prosecutor is an honourable one, said Hendrickson, but it is not for the fainthearted, she opined.
She is of the view that the prosecutorial discretion should be exercised in a manner that is consistent, fair and objective and that difficult decisions must be confronted, not sidestepped, and in deciding the way forward the prosecutor should apply professional judgment, legal competence and practical life experience.
It is the DPP’s view that the prosecutor is independent and his or her interest throughout is the just disposal of the issues. The prosecutor secures no victories and sustains no defeats. The prosecutor should be vigorous in presenting the evidence, but restrained and courteous. Without a fair prosecutor, there cannot be a fair trial,” said Mrs. Hendrickson.
She said that the community has a vested interest in the proper conduct of its prosecutions, and the conviction of the guilty is just as much in the public interest as is the acquittal of the innocent.
“The prosecutor is guided at all times by the public interest in the measured application of the rule of law,” said the DPP, stating:
“In deciding where exactly the public interest lies in a particular case the prosecutor must consider the justice of the situation and examine all the factors. The more serious the offence, the more likely is it that the public interest will require a prosecution to proceed. There is a need to maintain public confidence in the administration of criminal justice, and the community has a legitimate interest in the work of its prosecution service,” said Mrs. Hendrickson.
She said the purpose of the Code for Prosecutors is not only to provide a code of conduct for prosecutors and to promote consistent decision making at all stages of the prosecution process, but also to make the community aware of the way in which the system of public prosecutions operates. Transparency is essential for the modern prosecutor for a fair and effective criminal justice system.