(Trinidad Express) PROSECUTORS, State witnesses and others are put at risk because of the inadequacies of the physical infrastructure in the Magistrates’ Courts.
Giving testimony before the Joint Select Committee on Finance and Legal Affairs at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, yesterday, assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Tricia Hudlin-Cooper said a “powder keg of disaster” was being created where “everyone, all of the actors (in the court system) use the very same entrance, the very same washroom”.
She said the general public, accused people, their family members and attorneys all had to use the same washroom, posing an “extreme risk”.
She said: “It does not take a magician to anticipate what that risks could be.”
“As prosecutors we are not the most liked persons by the accused,” she said, and some accused people, unable to differentiate the professional from the personal, feel that the prosecutor has a personal vendetta against them.
“Regrettably, they take it on themselves to do whatever they can to dissuade that prosecutor from coming (to court). When there is the circumstance where perhaps not only the accused person but he is able to get other persons on his behalf, unbeknown to him sometimes, they determine that they are going to do whatever its takes to get this prosecutor off the matter, one of the things they do is threaten, and to put very bold threats, they call the phones of the prosecutors, they have persons stand and point at them, they (the prosecutors) are berated from wherever they are parked all the way to the court.
“These things happen and in the precincts of the court, you are actually threatened. This has happened to many of us. There have been instances and it remains the scenario where many prosecutors are under armed guards.”
Hudlin-Cooper said: “Police officers have come to us to tell us to be careful because they have XYZ intelligence. We have attorneys who have armed guards…We have persons in the face of the court threaten prosecutors very blatantly and remind you of the fact that you have children and they know where they go to school and we know where you work.
“There have been scenarios where persons, although they have been checked, (and you have some courts like in Tobago…where depending on what area you come through you are not checked), persons have come into the courts with different makeshift weaponry that can well do what they have intended it to do. So you are always very particular and very careful in terms of the safety and security of our attorney. Not only that, (the attorneys) also have to traverse long distances. We man all the magisterial districts and prosecutors in Port of Spain sometimes have to go to Rio Claro to prosecute matters. So the ability of someone, if they are really that minded to attack the prosecutor is extremely real.”
She said the request for a risk allowance had been denied by the Salaries Review Commission, pending the completion of a job evaluation exercise, “while the risk continues”.