Barbados Judiciary Takes a New Approach to Case Backlog

On August 24 and 27, U.S. Embassy Bridgetown began the next phase of the Barbados Goodyear Hearings/Maximum Sentence Indication (MSI) initiative.  The Embassy’s support of MSI, a procedure intended to reduce court backlog in criminal cases with voluntary guilty pleas, began with a workshop on November 24-25, 2017.  The workshop presented U.S. and regional best practices to Barbadian judges, magistrates, prosecutors, and defense attorneys.  The workshop led to the finalization and issuance of the Practice Directions on MSI Hearings by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Barbados.

The second phase focused on training and mentoring of key stakeholders in the use of MSI hearings in the High Court and Magistrates’ Courts.  Justice Gillian Lucky and Registrar Nirala Bansee Sookhai of the Trinidad and Tobago High Court – where MSI hearings are actively used to dispose cases – visited Barbados to conduct a series of meetings with judges, magistrates, and court staff to operationalize MSI hearings in advance of the new criminal term.  As summarized in a media release from the Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago, the objectives of MSI hearings are, “the expeditious disposal of criminal cases, resulting in the best use of valuable court time spent on cases that require a trial; a marked reduction in the trauma suffered by victims of crime by avoiding the rigors of a trial; a reduction in the time between charge and disposition of cases; savings in costs and valuable resources; and the reduction in the number of cases proceeding to trial.”

The Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) sponsored this initiative through its Justice Sector Assistance Program under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, which seeks to strengthen criminal justice legal frameworks and institutions and to develop model criminal justice approaches across the Caribbean region.