According to a message sent out to all attorneys in Bermuda from Chief Justice Narinder Hargun, the Supreme Court is having some difficulty properly disposing of criminal cases for the following reasons:
Defendants or their attorneys failing to appear on their scheduled court dates;
Some attorneys giving priority to the Magistrate’s Court over the Supreme Court and failing to submit the relevant documents to the Court on time, Delays in applying for Legal Aid, and Authorities failing to enforce arrest warrants issued by the Courts.
According to Justice Hargun, the parties involved in a trial should prepare for the trial as soon as the date is given and a Supreme Court fixture will be given priority over any other case the defendant or their counsel may be involved in.
Should any scheduled trial require an adjournment to a later date for any reason, the Court should be notified as soon as possible, the Chief Justice wrote, citing Rule 60 of the Barristers’ Code of Professional Conduct. He also wrote that no application for a trial adjournment will be entertained on the given trial date unless it is due to some utterly unanticipated circumstance, such as a sudden illness.
The Court should also be notified if the defendant and their counsel wish to completely vacate a trial, and the relevant applications to do so should be filed within a timely manner. Attorneys should also ensure that all of their fees are in place in a timely fashion and defendants will not be allowed to request a trial adjournment due to lack of funds unless they hsver proof thst they cannot pay up.
According to Justice Hargun, the above principles and rules also apply to “ wanted” trial dates.
Should the defendant wish to plead guilty in a case, the Court and the Crown should be notified forthwith. If a defendant fails to appear on their trial date, the jury will be stood over for one day while every possible effort is made to locate the defendant or a warned case prepared to go instead. If the defendant fails to appear on a non-trial date, they will be issued a warrant from the bench.
In relation to help from overseas counsel, cases will not be adjourned just for their convenience and availability. If the overseas counsel should become unavailable closer to the trial date, they should be replaced with another one, whether they be local or overseas counsel.
The aim of the Courts, Justice Hargun wrote, is to try criminal matters as soon as practicable. With that in mind, attorneys should return each others’ calls and answer all correspondence promptly.
“ Where progression of criminal trials places a reliance on third party authorities, the Court anticipates their full cooperation with little delay,” the message ended.
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