Moniz defends reforms of legal system

On June 22, 2015, in News, by Site Admin


Attorney-General Trevor Moniz has defended anticipated reforms of the Island’s “broken” legal system against Progressive Labour Party concerns over sweeping changes to the law.

Shadow Attorney-General Kim Wilson told The Royal Gazette there were two main issues warranting further discussion amid the Opposition’s serious misgivings over the Disclosure and Criminal Reform Act 2015 and the Criminal Jurisdiction and Procedure Act 2015.

“What was the position of the Bermuda Police Service and did they consent to these changes?” Ms Wilson asked.

“I don’t believe that question has been answered.

“It’s also concerning to me that the honourable Attorney-General reported that the existing president of the Bermuda Bar Council, Richard Horseman, supported this legislation.

“To my understanding that is not true.”

Mr Moniz conceded that there had been reservations from certain quarters, but maintained that the strongest reservations came from “very few members of the Criminal Bar”.

“The Criminal Defence Bar Sub-Committee never asked to meet with me over this,” the Attorney-General said, adding: “Obviously some members of the Criminal Bar will be afraid that the changes will affect their work.”

All objections were laid out at length in a confidential letter to the Attorney-General’s Chambers from the Bar Council and Criminal Bar Sub-Committee, dated March.

“With respect to the Bar, all of the reforms were given before Christmas, and they were slow to respond — we wanted to get these reforms before the House as a matter of urgency,” Mr Moniz said.

“We put these measures off until June to give them more of an opportunity. They wrote this letter, which you have seen; that letter was taken into account and there were suggestions which were incorporated into the legislation.

The suggestions that we didn’t listen is absolutely untrue.”

Both the Opposition and the Bar Council and Criminal Bar Sub-Committee have called the drastic reforms unconstitutional — but the Attorney-General insisted that the Island’s criminal justice system was “broken and many, many years out of date”.

“The reforms, which have taken many months to pull together, are taken directly in most cases from the UK where they are tried and tested,” Mr Moniz said. “I am confident that all these changes are constitutional.”

On the question of Police support, Mr Moniz said: “The Police weren’t against it. Their position, and it’s always a problem, is that they have 400-plus officers. When you are bringing in fundamental changes, their response is the need for additional training for 400 officers. That’s going to take them time and money, and they may need funding to get up to speed with the reforms.

“That’s not to say they’re against the proposal; they have logistical problems.”

Ms Wilson took issue with Mr Moniz’s portrayal of Bar Council support when the reforms were first tabled on June 5. On that occasion, the Attorney-General told MPs: “The Bar and Defence Bar have been fully consulted. I have certainly been told repeatedly by the immediate past president, Justin Williams, that these reforms have the Bar’s full support. I have been told by the new president, Richard Horseman, that they have the Bar’s full support.”

The Shadow Attorney-General said that Mr Moniz’s statement had been more optimistic than the reality, but Mr Moniz said that both Mr Williams and Mr Horseman had personally expressed support to him for the reforms.

“The letter I received does not represent the views of the whole Bar,” he said. “It represents the views of the Sub-Committee. I am not even sure who was on that committee in its entirety.”

Last week the Opposition called upon Governor George Fergusson to refrain from giving the legislation his final endorsement, citing unjustifiable constitutional risks posed by the amendments. As of last night there had been no official response from Government House.


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