Director of Public Prosecutions Kim Hollis QC has said that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) has continued to serve the Territory of the Virgin Islands since the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017.
Ms Hollis said the ODPP’s chambers received minimal damage and were able to re-open on September 29th when electricity and water were restored to the building. Prior to that date, the director worked from the United Kingdom and commenced the restoration of the Criminal Justice System in the Territory. The Principal Crown Counsel and one Senior Crown Counsel also operated in assisting the Police with advice and guidance on investigations when required during that time.
Ms Hollis stated that the office of the DPP serves as the main legal adviser for the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and both parties have been working together to maintain law and order in the Territory, despite the limited court operational days.
The Director said the RVIPF have made numerous arrests, crime detection and prevention since the passage of the hurricanes, and has produced numerous files. She added that her office is responsible for advising, reviewing and vetting of these files to ensure that they meet the requisite evidential standard and public interest standard before commencing prosecution.
Since the ODPP reopened on September 29, sixty-five (65) complaints have been laid before the Magistrate’s Court including murder, unlawful possession of firearms, theft, burglary, unlawful possession of controlled drugs and assault.
Ms Hollis said the High Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) is not yet fully operational, however, matters are still being conducted in the Magistrate’s Court, Court of Appeal and the Privy Council.The Crown securing victories in the Privy Council in October, 2017 and the Court of Appeal in November, 2017 where PCC Scatliffe Esprit and SCCs Kelly and Simpson appeared.
Ms Hollis further added, “During the limited sittings of the Magistrates Court since the hurricanes, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has successfully secured convictions on offences of Keeping Unlicensed Firearms and the Unlawful Possession of Explosives resulting in sentences of imprisonment of up to 5 years, as well as a number of drugs offences including Possession of a Controlled Drug with intent to supply.”
As a result of the considerable sustained work of those within the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, over $45,000.00 has been imposed in fines by the Magistrates and over $58,000 has been on application by the Crown forfeited as a result of the failure to declare monies and smuggling. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has thus been responsible for the recovery in the courts of over $103,000.00 since the passage of the Hurricanes despite court limitations on sitting days. There are a number of other similar substantial applications to be made in 2018.
The ODPP will continue its work in restoring the Criminal Justice System of this Territory and to ensure that the Criminal Justice System will work justly and fairly .The full restoration of the Criminal Justice System is a vital component in the maintenance of law and order and thus, in the recovery of our Territory and the ODPP will continue to fulfil its important and essential role in the process.