Fears of prosecutor shortage after police reassignment
The announcement that Police prosecutors will no longer act in court and have been reassigned to other divisions within the Ministry of Police, has prompted fears that the criminal justice system could be left under-resourced.
But the newly appointed Attorney-General, Attorney General Savalenoa Mareva Betham Annandale, says the decision will put pressure on the criminal justice system.
“The list of matters in the District Court is over 500 plus and there are five prosecutors for District Court,” the Attorney-General, who was appointed last month, told the Samoa Observer.
“[Existing prosecutors] can’t handle that on their own they need the [Police] prosecutors.
“We handled the Supreme court prosecutions and district court prosecutions and so we [shared] the workload with the police.
“However at the moment the police prosecutors have been taken back by the police, and I am hoping we can work things out. I have approached the police commissioner to try and re-establish a good working relationship.”
Savalenoa told the Samoa Observer there are not enough prosecutors for the District Court and the Police also have a role to play.
“I hope we can revisit the issue of Police prosecutors taken off their duty to prosecute,” she said.
According to Savalenoa in 2013, a national prosecution office was established and there were amendments to the constitution along with an act that was passed to give the prosecution solely to that office.
“And everything that was with the [Attorney-General] for prosecution was handled there,” Savalenoa said.
“However when the [National Prosecution Office] was dissolved the act was repealed the police prosecution continued working however I understand as of last Friday the police took them back.
“The Police do have a role to play in the prosecution of certain matters because we don’t have the capacity in terms of numbers available to prosecute at the moment.
Savalenoa also told the Samoa Observer aside from this, their office works closely with the Police in terms of reviewing the files and determining what charges need to be filed and if any.
“The process is that complaints are received by the police and upon receiving it undertake an investigation and once investigation is complete they are in a position to make a recommendation to the [Attorney-General’s] office.
“However for serious matters is handled by our office and if there is evidence we will then say to the police to proceed, or drop the charges
“Then the Police will then charge the person.
“And for serious matters, our office will handle the prosecution.”
Efforts to get comments from the Commissioner of Police. Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil, have been unsuccessful.