Backlog of cases at PG’s Office reaches over 500

The backlog of cases pending at the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office has reached 533 as a result of the Criminal Court’s refusal to accept cases, Deputy PG Hussain Shameem has revealed.

Speaking at a joint press conference with the Maldives Police Service (MPS) on Thursday, Shameem said that the growing backlog included 196 cases of suspects in pre-trial detention.

Expressing concern with the stalled process, Shameem noted that the Supreme Court on February 6 ordered trial courts to proceed with cases submitted by the PG office.

“I couldn’t think of what else I could do apart from getting a [court] order from the highest stage [of appeal] in the country. I can’t grab their hand and force them to accept,” he said.

The PG’s office was filing cases at the Criminal Court every day despite the court’s refusal to accept them, Shameem said, adding that a case involving the stabbing of an MPs’ wife and child was submitted on Thursday.

“So what do they do now, it would not be fair to keep [suspects] in [remand detention] until the parliament comes back to work from recess after three months and appoint a new PG,’’ Shameem told Minivan News previously.

An official from the Criminal Court meanwhile told local media last week that the Supreme Court order stated that lower courts must accept cases filed in accordance with regulations.

“The cases being submitted now in the absence of a prosecutor general are not in line with regulations,” he was quoted as saying by online news outlet CNM.

Shameem however told Minivan News that the court should specify the clause of the regulation it was accusing the PG office of violating.

“There is no such regulation. I have not seen a regulation that says so,” he insisted.

Vacant PG post

Shortly before parliament was due to vote on a no-confidence motion against him, former PG Ahmed Muiz submitted his resignation in November last year.

A month later, the Criminal Court decided not to accept cases filed by the PG’s office as the post had been vacant for 30 days, noting that the constitution stipulates a PG must be appointed within that period.

In December, President Abdulla Yameen nominated his nephew Maumoon Hameed for the post, but parliament broke for recess at the end of the month after forwarding the nominee for vetting by the independent institutions committee.

The committee’s chair, MP Ahmed Sameer – who recently defected from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to the government-aligned Jumhooree Party – told newspaper Haveeru shortly after the Supreme Court issued its order that the vetting process was stalled due to lack of cooperation from political parties.

While a committee meeting scheduled to take place during the ongoing recess to interview the nominee was canceled upon request by pro-government MPs, Sameer said a second attempt to hold the meeting was unsuccessful because MDP MPs opposed it.

New mechanism

Meanwhile, at Thursday’s press conference, Shameem said the PG’s office has been working with the MPS since November 25 to expedite the filing of cases at court.

In the past, Shameem explained, police forwarded cases upon completion of their investigation, after which the PG office either sends it back to clarify further information, rejects the case or files it at court.

The slow process prompted complaints from the public and posed challenges to securing convictions as trials often began months after the crime occurred and witnesses were unable to recall what they saw, Shameem said.

However, he added, investigations of serious crimes now proceed under the guidance of prosecutors.

Under the new system, police officers have been meeting with state prosecutors at the earliest stage of the investigation to discuss cases, Shameem said.

After mutual discussion, the PG’s office decides whether or not to prosecute based on the available evidence, Shameem explained.

Since the new mechanism was put in place, Shameem said police officers and prosecutors have held 195 meetings to discuss 164 cases, out of which the office decided to file 32 cases.

“Now we don’t send cases back to clarify further information. The 21 days it normally takes to make a decision regarding a case has been shortened to three or four days,” he said.

Following initial consultation with investigating officers, Shameem said the prosecuting attorney asks the police to clarify further information within a specified period.

“The police have been very good. They find the information within that period and get back to us. After clarifying all the information, we then decide whether to prosecute the case at court or not,” he said.