I would like to respond to the comments of the Senior Magistrate as reported in Court News in PN of 24th January and assure readers that the Falkland Islands Government is committed to and is actively addressing problems with access to the law as well as improving prosecution practice.
The Government has approved an action plan and funding to address the state of the laws generally and make them more accessible to the public. This is a huge piece of work and Executive Council recently agreed to the appointment of a Law Commissioner to drive this project forward over the next two years.
The Government has also approved and funded (together with the FCO) the Criminal Justice Reform Project to codify and modernise the criminal law. The Project is being taken forward in full consultation with all stakeholders, including the Court and the politicians. To drive forward this work the Attorney Generals Chambers has, in addition to the normal legal team, the temporary benefit of a specialist criminal justice lawyer on loan from the UK Crown Prosecution Service. The work is well under way with draft legislation expected by August of this year and new procedures are being developed and introduced across government in readiness.
The Attorney General Chambers has also appointed a specialist prosecutor into a post that became vacant last year. This is already leading to better criminal case preparation and presentation. The timescale within which cases are brought before the court in the Falklands is generally shorter than that in the UK, and there is no backlog of cases. This appointment has not increased the number of lawyers in the AGs Chambers, but introduced specialist prosecution experience to Chambers in response to previous criticisms from the court.
In relation to the Senior Magistrates ruling that the harassment charges against Mr McClaren be stayed, I am reviewing that ruling. Previous cases brought under the Protection of Harassment Act 1997 have been brought in good faith by the police and AGs and have been heard before the Court without challenge. But to ensure that harassment is a criminal offence in the Falklands, I will be bringing forward urgent draft legislation for consideration by Executive Council. Those previously convicted under the Protection of Harassment Act 1997 will be contacted by AGs Chambers to discuss their cases as appropriate.
The Falkland Islands is not dithering in addressing the state of the law but is taking a planned approach to dealing with the issues. The Government believe that justice is being done in the Falkland Islands and is committed to ensuring that this continues to be the case.