With amendments to the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) Act pending, Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, says the Commission will not be given prosecutorial powers.
The decision is aligned to a Privy Council Court ruling handed down in May, that INDECOM has no power to arrest or prosecute police personnel.
Speaking at a JIS Think Tank on November 10, the Minister said although INDECOM will not have prosecutorial powers, the Government has bolstered the prosecuting capacity of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
“During the last four years as Minister of Justice, we have augmented and improved the Director of Public Prosecutions personnel. We increased the number of prosecutors by over 50 per cent and in doing so, they have maybe 60 or more prosecutors. The effect of that is the DPP is now capable of doing all these prosecutions and, therefore, we are not going to give the power of prosecution to INDECOM,” Mr. Chuck said.
He also explained that there are a number of other areas to be amended in the law that will strengthen the investigative powers of INDECOM.
“[We intend] to give it corporate status, so that it can actually receive grants or it can deal independently of the Government, also, that it can share information, because the current Act does not allow INDECOM to share information. So, we will allow it to share information with the JCF, JDF, the Coroner’s Court and with other bodies to be determined. We hope that, very shortly, a Bill will be tabled in Parliament, so not only do we amend the Act but we can improve the INDECOM legislation,” the Minister said.
Corporate status is expected to improve the efficiency of the administrative processes of INDECOM, including the direct receipt of partner funding.
Meanwhile, Minister Chuck expressed confidence that the INDECOM Bill will be tabled in Parliament during the current fiscal year.
“Drafting instructions have been sent to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel (OPC). It had a little delay and the delay was to ensure that we agreed to put in a validation part of the legislation. The reason for that is because between 2013 and 2018, INDECOM prosecuted, based on the full court ruling that it had powers of prosecution. The Court of Appeal and the Privy Council ruled that it didn’t. So everything it did, between 2013 and 2018, such as charging and prosecuting, we have to validate, so that is being combined with any of the improvements that we are going to make,” the Minister said.
Without validation, with the implications of the Privy Council ruling, cases that would have been prosecuted during the period would be considered null and void.