Attorney-General Guus Schram wants  more judges for large trials

POSTED: 03/4/15 12:38 PM

St. Maarten – Attorney-General Guus Schram wants large trials to be handled by more than one judge in the future. He said this last week Friday in an interview with Anneke Polak in the radio show What a Week on Paradise FM in Curacao.

“All cases are now handled by a single judge. I find that a very vulnerable system. In a small community one judge is vulnerable for external intimidation,” the Antilliaans Dagblad quoted Schram from the radio program. “I find it necessary to have a plural chamber for large cases. It gives the opportunity for judges to consult and to discuss. Establishing a plural chamber is by law not possible in Curacao (nor in St. Maarten – ed.) and that is why I am pleading for an amendment to the law.”

The AG said that justice ministers support the idea, but it is costly and there is currently no budget available for it. “It does not have to happen now, but the Common Court of Justice must include it in future budgets.”

Schram referred to the Magnus-trial (about the assassination of Pueblo Soberano-leader Helmin Wiels). Such a case should be done by three judges, he said, comparing the position of the judge with that of Public Prosecutor Gert Rip. He had the support of the police force, the Detective Collaboration Team RST and the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

“He was the only one in the spotlight. This is something I want to look at carefully. Do we want one prosecutor to be the face of a large trial? That is not sensible in my opinion. Not Rip, but the prosecutor’s office is handling the trial. The suspects are prosecuted by the prosecutor’s office and that must be made clearer by linking more faces to the case.”

Schram also said that his organization lacks sufficient attorneys-general with adequate experience to handle for instance the seizing of criminal capital, high-tech crimes and the fight against terrorism. “We do not have experience with this and we are inadequately equipped. We have to fund a way to bring expertise on board.”

Schram furthermore said that on occasion the prosecutor’s office should provide explanations about its investigative strategy to the public to prevent accusations of for instance class justice. “If we only prosecute and try the small fish in the drugs circuit it creates the semblance of class justice. However, we have to weigh the pros and cons every time. We have small investigative services, especially in Sint Maarten. Catching the small fish goes faster and the public want to see results. Large cases sometimes take too much time, they cost a lot of capacity and money and success is not guaranteed. Take for instance the Bientu-investigation. This case is taking very long. You could opt for the dragnet method and make the investigation very broad, but you could also focus on one criminal fact. You will only be able to see after a couple of years whether you made the right choice.”

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