Out-of-court settlements to avoid a charge are illegal

Dear Editor,

A few days ago, a hire car driver whose vehicle was involved in an accident in Region 2 related to me that he was advised by the police to get a document agreeing to a settlement between the parties involved from a justice of peace, so the matter could be settled at the station.

As far as I am aware, there is no provision set out in the statutes which empowers a JP to do this, and likewise the police are in violation of the law for contributing to the drawing up of a such a document.

According to the driver, he was arrested and released on $10,000 station bail and told to attend court on Thursday (June 20, 2013). In order to avoid the long drawn-out process he provided the document which was responsible for the matter coming to an end with the payment of $30,000 to the victim. For preparing and attesting to the document the JP was paid $1,500.

A document of this nature does not have any validity whatsoever, and makes a mockery of the justice system. The Director of Prosecutions (DPP) is the one who is vested with the authority to decide to prosecute or not prosecute, and her functions were clearly usurped here. The police at all times should confine their operations within the ambit of their duty. It is totally illegal for a settlement to be effected at the station level when the rightful forum for this to be done is at the courts, where the state stands to benefit financially from the imposition of monetary penalties.

The law must be allowed to take its course and what was being done here is tantamount to perverting the course of justice. A simple directive from someone in authority could eliminate this practice which is so detrimental to the state.

Yours faithfully,
Baliram Persaud

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