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Shortage of prosecutors in Fiji


Apr 06, 2021 02:08:03 PM

Shortage of prosecutors in Fiji The shortage of prosecutors and judges contributes to the slow processing of cases.

The 2020 US Country Reports on Human Rights Practices said the shortage of prosecutors and judges consequently led to some defendants facing lengthy pre-trial detention.

The report said pre-trial detainees made up 24 percent of the prison population, which resulted from a continuing pattern of courts refusing bail and resource shortages.

“The constitution provides that detained persons be charged and brought to court within 48 hours of arrest or as soon as practicable thereafter, and that right was generally respected.

“Police also conduct arrests in response to warrants issued by magistrates and judges. Persons held under the power of the attorney must be charged or released after 16 days.

“There is no legal requirement to bring to court persons detained under provisions of the power of the attorney for judicial review of the grounds for their detention

“A shortage of prosecutors and judges contributed to slow processing of cases. Consequently, some defendants faced lengthy pretrial detention,” the report said.

The report said some defendants are not granted bail as he or she had appealed a conviction or had previously breached bail conditions.

“Although there is a legal presumption in favor of granting bail, the prosecution may object, where the accused was appealing a conviction or had previously breached bail condition.

“An individual must apply for bail by a motion and affidavit that require the services of a lawyer, authorities generally allowed detainees prompt access to counsel and family members.”

“The Legal Aid Commission provided counsel to some indigent defendants in criminal cases, a service supplemented by voluntary services from private attorneys.

“The first-hour procedure requires police to provide every suspect with legal aid assistance within the first hour of the arrest.

“In addition, police are required to record the caution interview with each suspect before questioning, to confirm police informed all suspects of their constitutional rights,” the report said.

The report said defendants are also questioned to check whether they suffered any abuse by police prior to questioning.

By Nacanieli Tuilevuka

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