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for 16th SEPTEMBER, 2013
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On the pros of decriminalising marijuana,
Archie said: "In an economy where the State
is the major employer and a criminal con-
viction is a bar to employment, we may be
pushing minor non-violent offenders into
criminality when they can be saved."
He described the economic and social
consequences of incarcerating people for
possession and consumption of marijuana
as immense and suggested drug treatment
courts as a viable alternative.
"Moreover, it is now appearing that the
consensus about many of the assumptions
about the effects of marijuana in particular
is unraveling," he said.
He called on policymakers to seriously
consider his suggestion, adding the focus
should be more on drug trafficking and not
"The burden on the police and prisons
and the courts, in terms of cost and human
resource, will be lessened if we focus on
the scourge of trafficking, but as long as we
have laws on the books we have to enforce
them," Archie said.
He also said addiction was as much of
a public health issue as it was a criminal
"This is not a moral judgment, although
one might observe that marijuana con-
sumption probably wreaks no more havoc
than alcohol addiction but we provide sup-
port for one and punishment for the other,"
He cited a progress report of a participant
in the Judiciary s pilot Drug Treatment Court
programme, currently in existence in San
Fernando, as evidence of success in providing
treatment for drug users.
The CJ also called for the increased use
of plea bargaining under the Plea Discussion
and Plea Agreement Act.
"With proper training, the employment
of existing and amended legislation will go
a long way in reducing the backlog," he
He said there were three main reasons
why the legislation was rarely used: Uncer-
tainty or perceived inconsistency in sen-
tencing, concerns from prosecutors regarding
improper influence and statutory mandatory
minimum sentences for some offences.
He said the first two concerns have been
alleviated by the Judiciary s sentencing
guidelines publication and a code for guid-
ance of prosecutors, which has been adopted
by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Archie said mandatory minimum sen-
tences were interfering with the court s abil-
ity to tailor sentences to the specific cir-
cumstances in a case.
He said reform also was needed in Legal
Aid and suggested the establishment of a
permanently staffed Public Defender s Office.
"Despite increases in the fees payable on
legal aid briefs, there are apparently still not
many attorneys who regard a substantial
legal aid practice as financially viable," Archie
He also called for an increase in the foren-
sic evidence-gathering capabilities of inves-
"We can t have 21st-century justice with-
out 21st-century police investigations and
that requires investment in and facilities
with the latest available technology," Archie
Addressing Archie s concerns after the
ceremony, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-
Bissessar said her Government already had
embarked on several of the suggestions he
"He (Archie) is pushing on an open door
on many of the suggestions he made," Per-
She said she supported the abolition of
jury trials and stated that Government was
presently working on a draft bill on the
Asked about her views on decriminali-
sation of marijuana, the PM said the sug-
gestion would be considered but did not
give a firm stance on the issue.
"Some consideration will be given. I can t
give you an answer, yea or nay. It is some-
thing we will look at," Persad-Bissessar
CJ: Decriminalise ganja
Chief Justice Ivor Archie has called on Prime
Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to initiate talks
on the financial independence of the Judiciary.
He made the call while addressing the opening
of the 2013/2014 law term at the Hall of Justice,
Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ram-
logan and several Government ministers attended.
Archie said: "I hope that as we move foward
there can be productive dialogue on the question
of appropriate financial arrangements for the Judi-
ciary that will be conducive both to greater efficency
and to the financial and administrative independence
that is an internationally accepted component of
the institutional independence of the Judiciary."
He described the financial allocation process for
public sector agencies, such as the Judiciary, as a
hindrance to efficency and productivity.
"Procedures are lengthy and cumbersome and
in the case of the Judiciary, sometimes offend
against the principle of judicial independence," he
Archie cited the example of him having to seek
Cabinet approval for official overseas travel.
"There is no justification for such a request to
be subjected to a blanket policy that all official
travel must be scrutinised by a committee of Cab-
"I cite this merely as an example of the type of
inefficient and over-centralised government that
we have all inherited," he said.
Archie said as of June 30 last year, the Judiciary
only received 40 per cent of its capital expenditure
"It is critical for the Judiciary to have adequate
resources and the proper control and autonomy
for managing them," he added.
Archie said during the last year, the Judiciary s
main capital expenditure was on improvement
works at the three Supreme Courts (Port-of-Spain,
San Fernando and Tobago) and at the Scarborough
and Point Fortin Magistrates Courts.
"The Judiciary is bursting at the seams and we
urgently require movement on the construction of
the proposed judicial complexes," Archie added.
He said significant funding was spent on training
court staff and for ICT solutions to improve vital
Archie said in an effort to manage costs, the
Judiciary intended to allocate resources on a per
court basis, which would assist in easier cost man-
agement and monitoring.
Archie wants to
Police Guard of
opening of the
the Hall of
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