Register to be kept of Mentally Challenged Persons in Prison


The Ministry of Justice is seeking to address concerns about persons who seem to go missing in the prison system, due to their mental deficiency.
The Government is to bring to Parliament, amendments to the Criminal Justice Administration Act, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, A.J. Nicholson informed the Senate on October 1, during his contribution to the State of the Nation Debate. These amendments will require the Court Registrar or the Clerk of the Court to keep a register of persons who are deemed unfit to plead, or who have been convicted, but have been found to be insane at the time the crime was committed.
Elaborating on the impending amendments, Mr. Nicholson said that regular and frequent reports would be made to the courts, as a matter of law, under the proposed amendments. “This must be closely court-managed,” he added.
The Senator also pointed out that the proposed amendments would stipulate that legal aid be offered to accused persons in the criminal courts, who appear to be mentally challenged.
Turning to the death penalty, Senator Nicholson said that it should be fully debated in Parliament, and that there should also be a conscience vote on the matter. “There will be arguments about the legal significance of a conscience vote,” he said, but noted that, “this will allow the Parliament to send a strong signal as to the majority perspective on this difficult question”.
Citing a number of cases, Senator Nicholson noted that the Privy Council was at best, inconsistent when it came to Caribbean death penalty cases. The issue, he said, must eventually be resolved, one way or another.
On the question of the backlog of cases within the system, Minister Nicholson admitted that it was a difficult problem. He told the Senate that the backlog stemmed, in large measure, from the number of criminal cases pending. “For as increased resources are made available to tackle the problem, the number of persons for trial increases, so the backlog remains,” he lamented.
He noted that this year, however, on the initiative of the Chief Justice, there have been increases in court sittings, specifically designed to reduce the backlog.
Senator Nicholson expressed gratitude to the members of the judiciary and the attorneys, who have been assisting in this process.

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