Drug treatment court ‘a must’
Barbados should have a drug treatment court.
Chief Justice Marston Gibson projected it as a means of attempting to save some of the young drug offenders who now find themselves being placed among hardened criminals at HMP Dodds.
His comments were made in a lecture on the new challenges to crime and justice at The Mount Restaurant at the University of the West?Indies Cave Hill Campus Wednesday night.
The Chief Justice said he had been made aware of the number of drug offenders in prison by the Superintendent of Prisons Lieutenant Colonel John Nurse and others with whom he had held meetings, who all told him, there were “a lot of people who had gotten involved in the sale and the use of drugs and putting them in prison had the result of making them into hardened criminals”.
He reminded the many magistrates and judges in the audience that the Penal System Reform Act required the courts to consider not only making the punishment fit the crime, but to temper justice with mercy and to consider such things as rehabilitation.
“What a drug treatment court would do is that it would permit the sentencing magistrate or sentencing judge to consider a different modality of treatment for the commisision of the offence involving drugs,” he explained.
“One of the challenges which we have is the question of whether we want to establish a drug treatment court with a view to attempting to save some of the younger offenders from being indoctrinated and being inculcated by the older offenders who they will meet at Dodds and it is my submission that we should have that drug treatment court.”
Gibson pointed out the idea of a drug treatment court was “not recent”. Instead, he credited former Chief Justice Sir David Simmons with the idea, referring to an address given by Sir David to the National Association of Drug Support Professionals in Missouri in 2008.
In that address, Gibson said, Sir David had pointed to the fact that “a lot of the burgeoning criminality that had been occurring in Barbados was connected to the whole problem of illegal narcotic drugs”.
Sir David’s ideas were again cited by the Chief Justice when an audience member later suggested police were complaining they were not receiving the support they expected from the courts.
The Chief Justice said, in response, a lot of the problems being experienced in the crimnal area would benefit from a “multi-faceted approach” which Sir David had suggested “a while ago”, and promised more “follow through” on ideas as a result.
Gibson also touted the idea of specialty courts such as a Small Claims Court.
Speaking about his own recent experience spending three days doing the work of a High Court Judge in Chambers, the Chief Justice observed “a good 60 to 65 per cent of the cases I did had no place in the High Court”.
He felt the “hugely burgeoning” list of cases now weighing down the court system could be reduced by “working well”.
“Part of the problem is not that we don’t work hard, we are not working well,” the Chief Justice said.