Freedom, with limits
Freedom of speech is not an absolute right, but is subject to the laws of sedition, defamation, treason and contempt, says Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Charles Leacock, QC.
The DPP asked both the media and the public to bear this in mind concerning cases before the court as he spoke yesterday during the opening ceremony for the third annual Personnel Administration and Training Division-sponsored prosecutors training course.
“The media has a duty to report what is taking place in society and the public has a right to know. However, freedom of expression is not an absolute right as much as it is a right to express ideas and is subject to others’ rights, one of which is the right to a fair hearing,” Leacock said.
He said there had been successful prosecutions in Barbados in three cases involving arson resulting in death: Trevor Foster, Cedric Williams and Omar Holder.
“Leave all pending cases to the courts because the criminal justice system has the capability to address them. Leave the facts to any specific case where they belong – in the law courts,” he said.
Also speaking at the opening ceremony was Acting Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who delivered the feature address. He said a prosecutor should not be motivated by the desire to secure a conviction but rather by a desire to secure justice.
“Your role is to lay out the facts fairly and fearlessly and leave it to the tribunal of facts to administer a verdict of innocence or guilt. Your interest is the pursuit of justice while the courts’ interest is in the dispensation of justice,” he said.
Stuart told the participants law courts did not convict on what they knew but on what they believed.
“But just because you believe something, it doesn’t make it true nor if you are in doubt, does that make it a lie, so you have to be careful of what course a trial should take.
“Somebody has to keep their head when everybody else is losing theirs, which is why prosecutors are so important to the administration of justice in this country,” he said.
Stuart also advised the participants to be well versed in all manner of subjects and to “read much and widely”.
He said three bill would be tabled in Parliament next month: the Transnational Organised Crime Bill, the Prevention of Corruption Bill and a new Money Laundering Bill, and prosecutors needed to be well versed on these subjects.
“Prosecutors will have to equip themselves on these issues to be effective administrators of justice in our court system.
“We are lucky to still live in a society where people believe the court can make a difference if they have been aggrieved, and you being here shows you believe it too. Upgrade your skills, not only to solidify justice but to aid in its effective dispensation,” he said.
The week-long course takes place in the Frank Walcott Building, Culloden Road, St Michael. (CA)