Can DPP withdraw criminal proceedings?
Stabroek News
May 4, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Please enlighten me and your other readers on the power of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to discontinue a private criminal prosecution. By what law is an individual citizen stopped from asking the Supreme Court to bring another citizen before it, to hear and defend against allegations substantiated by evidence?

If a private person lays information with the Police, in the hope that the State will prosecute an infringement of criminal law, I can understand that the DPP will be consulted for legal advice to the Police, to help them choose whether to act on the information. But if the same person elects to approach the Court direct, by way of a private action, can the DPP, or the State, decide that the Court must not hear the action? In stopping the private criminal prosecution brought by Eusi Kwayana, is the DPP advising the Court that the action is spurious, in that only a coroner has access to proofs of lawbreaking? Is the holding of an inquest into the death of Shaka Blair required by law, or is it at the discretion of the DPP?

Yours faithfully,

Gordon Forte

Editor's note

Section 5 of the Coroners Act provides that where any unnatural death (which is widely defined in the act and would certainly include any death due to violence) comes to the attention of the police they shall forthwith cause a report thereof to be made to the coroner (defined in the act as the magistrate of the magisterial district in which the death occurs). Section 6 provides that the coroner shall forthwith cause due investigation to be made as to the cause of that death and, if necessary, hold an inquest, or, if the circumstances so require, shall hold an inquiry. In the case of a violent death the coroner will always require a post mortem examination of the body to be carried out.

Section l9 provides that the Director of Public Prosecutions may require a coroner to hold an inquest.

Section 2l (2) provides that where a coroner is informed that someone has been charged before a magistrate with the murder or manslaughter of the deceased he shall, unless directed in writing to the contrary by the Director of Public Prosecutions, abstain from holding an inquest.

The big problem, of course, is that it has not been the practice for over thirty years to hold inquests. The law was ignored. Walter Rodney's death is the most infamous example of this default though an unsatisfactory inquest was held many years later.

The Director of Public Prosecutions used to be appointed by the President but under the revised constitution will be appointed by the Judicial Service Commission. Under Article l87 of the constitution he can institute criminal proceedings against any person, take over proceedings instituted by anyone else or discontinue proceedings instituted by anyone else.