New regulations to speed up investigations and prosecutions have been announced by the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office and the Maldives Police Services (MPS).
Specified cases will now be prosecuted within seven days, with police saying that the measures would “reduce the number of repetitive offenders” as criminal cases can now be prosecuted within the time frame of the initial remand period.
In a joint press conference held today (February 15) Police Superintendent Hamdhoon Rasheed explained that the regulation enacted on January 4 will apply to five types of cases.
These will include cases in which: the accused confesses to the crime; witnesses and video/photo evidence clearly identify the accused and the crime; there is forensic evidence and witnesses; there is two clear witness statements; there is a police witness.
The cases in which the accused confesses to the crime and the cases in which police personnel are witnesses will be prosecuted within 3 days, while other three types of cases will be prosecuted within 7 days.
The PG’s Office representative at the conference, Information Officer Adam Arif, stated that the new regulations have so far been applied to 20 cases.
Of these, he explained that eight are in court, seven have been put on hold, three require further clarification, one suspect was given leniency given for first time offenders, while the PG decided to dismiss another case.
In answering queries regarding the cases the seven cases that have been put on hold, Arif said that they had involved offenders who are currently under the drug rehabilitation programme, mandated by the drug court,or under trial in that court.
“According to drug court regulations and rehabilitation policies, these cases have to be put on hold until the drug court decides on the continuation of their rehabilitation programme or on the cases lodged against them,” said Arif.
In response to questions regarding potential weaknesses in the cases due to the speeding up of the investigation and prosecution process, Arif stated that the regulation applies to considerably small offences.
“We believe this will facilitate justice by speeding up the judicial process. We do not think this will weaken the investigation or the prosecution process,” Arif stated.
Recent moves to have also been made to speed up the appeals process, with the time allotted for appeals from lower courts reduced to 10 days – from the usual 90 (180 for cases from the atolls).
The Supreme Court has said that the move to expedite proceedings will ensure the constitutional right to hearing within a reasonable time, though critics have argued the new regulations effectively remove the legal right of appeal.
When asked during the conference today about whether the case of former Minister of Defence and National Security Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim had been sent to the PG’s Office by police, Superintendent Hamdhoon noted that “his case is serious and related to terrorism”, and that these regulation did not apply to his case.
While neither the office itself nor police have provided any confirmation on whether Nazim’s case has been sent to the PG, his legal team has reported that police told the Criminal Court during a remand hearing on February 10 that the case had been sent to the PG on February 9.
Nazim’s legal team noted that the police had said, under oath, that some forensic processes had not yet been completed despite the case being sent to the PG.
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