His Excellency the Governor, Mr. John Rankin, CMG has outlined that security and justice legislation are a part of the pieces of legislation that form the Government of the Virgin Islands’ agenda for the Fourth session of the Fourth House of Assembly.
During his first Speech from the Throne on January 18, Governor Rankin said these pieces of legislation will impact security and the administration of justice and underscores the Government’s commitment to good governance, transparency and accountability.
The Governor said, “The introduction of the Police Act (CAP. 165) will bring together an updated legislative basis for policing in the territory and provide a strong constitutional and professional base for a modernised Police Force.”
Meanwhile, the Witness Anonymity Legislation, the Governor said, will be an invaluable tool in assisting with combating serious crime and the further strengthening of public confidence in the criminal justice system, as it will ensure the protection of witnesses and the preservation of their rights by providing for a court to make a witness anonymity order to protect the safety of the witness, prevent property damage, and prevent real harm to the public interest.
Similar to the Civil Procedure Rules, Governor Rankin noted, “the Criminial Procedures Rules will serve a vital role in managing all criminal matters filed with the Supreme Court.” This, he said, will improve upon the Criminal Procedure Code and provide a more detailed framework for the administration of justice.
The thirty-six-year-old Schedule of Fees (CAP.44) of the Magistrates’ Code of Procedure Rules will see an increase to filing and service-related fees to reflect operational costs associated with a higher-level functioning Magistracy, while the Jury Act (CAP.36) will be reviewed to examine the powers of judges as it relates to jury trials and will explore whether a Judge can hear some trials without a jury to allow for the expediency of justice in the Territory.
The Speech from the Throne, a tradition in Commonwealth and Overseas Territories, signals the opening of a new session of the House of Assembly. It highlights the legislative agenda of the elected Government in addressing the needs of the public during the upcoming Session of the House of Assembly.