BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – St. Kitts and Nevis Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Hon. Patrice Nisbett says as the principal Legal Advisor to the Federal Government he must lead the war against crime while at the same time have strict regard to the strictures of the Constitution.
In remarks to Chief Justice His Lordship Mr. Justice Hugh Rawlins and other Justices of the Appeal Court at Special Sitting to mark the start of a new Law Term, the Nevisian-born Attorney General said the law must keep apace or ahead of criminal conduct.
“Before the propulsion of internet technology round about 1989, these islands in the Caribbean as well as on the continents were beleaguered by the supply and consumption of narcotic substances. In these times the latter is coupled with the advantage to criminals of cyber space technology. Cyber space technology has no geographical boundaries. Face-book information, twittering, emails and the blogs are easy avenues which facilitate criminal mischief,” said the Attorney General.
“These are the vices which confront us. These are the same vices which the developed countries with their vast resources face,” said the Attorney General.
He told the Bench that the small community of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) faces dilemmas.
“But we must confront and destroy or at least deter the urge to get rich overnight at the expense of honest hard-working people. As Attorney General, the principal Legal Advisor to the government, I must lead in the war against crime while at the same time have “strict regard to the strictures of our Constitution,” said Mr. Nisbett.
He said that existing laws must be reviewed and the review on the criminal side must take cognizance of the rights of victims of crime.
“Regrettably the zeal in safeguarding the rights of those charged with crime in a manner of speaking has emasculated victims’ rights,” said Attorney General Nisbett
He told Chief Justice Rawlins, Appeal Court Judges and the legal fraternity that the law in the jurisdiction of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court must keep apace or ahead of criminal conduct.
“As it stands now law abiding citizens are left to the mercy of the criminal. Criminals are confident that their victims have neither the means nor the legal right to resist them. This mind set calls for a sharp jolt,” said the Attorney General.
He promised to “give this unhappy state of affairs careful consideration – mindful however of the personal rights and freedoms our Constitution bestows on every inhabitant.”
“I will also take on board the reality that personal rights and freedoms must of necessity give way to public welfare and safety,” said the Attorney General.
Expressing the view that gun crime is part of an increasingly lawless environment, the Attorney General said this sea change in crime must be followed by a sea change in government policies.
“No longer can we advise that those who witness crime should walk away and let the authorities deal with it. Witnesses to crimes are afraid to report them. Witnesses to crime are afraid and reluctant to come to court for fear of reprisals. I understand that. But intimidation of witnesses must come to a halt. Thus criminal practice and procedure must be given a new look. That entire regime must if need be overhauled in order for the government to carry out its most sacred duty that is , to protect its citizens from banditry practiced by criminals who think they can scare the nation into a corner of silent fear and trepidation. Enough is enough,” said Attorney General Nisbett.
He noted that over the centuries the common law not only allowed, but expected persons to defend themselves, their families and their neighbors when official help was not available.
“Personal security was at the apex of individual rights so said William Blackstone that expert commentator of the common law. Blackstone rightly argued that to act in defence of oneself or his family is a right no government can take away and as professor A. V. Dicey espoused and cautioned ‘to discourage self protection by loyal subjects’ may result in the latter becoming ‘slaves of ruffians’ Interesting as these observations are I do not necessarily encourage the self help doctrine – that could cause a free for all and axiomatically a recipe for more violence,” said the Attorney General.
He said that the necessary tools, technology and manpower are being put in place to keep the people safe.
“In quick time bandits will think twice before embarking on criminal enterprises.
Justice will be swift. Justice will be sure. Justice will be significant and meaningful. In this regard, you, my Lords as the independent judiciary are expected to play a major role consistent with your mandate and the rule of law,” the St. Kitts and Nevis Attorney General concluded.