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The Montserrat Constitution Order 1989

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Provisions to secure protection of law.

57.  (1)  If any person is charged with a criminal offence, then, unless the charge is withdrawn, the case shall be afforded a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial court established by law.

(2) Every person who is charged with a criminal offence—

(a)shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved or has pleaded guilty;

(b)shall be informed as soon as reasonably practicable, in a language that he understands and in detail, of the nature of the offence charged;

(c)shall be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence;

(d)shall be permitted to defend himself before the court in person or, at his own expense, by a legal representative of his own choice, or, where so provided by any law, by a legal representative at the public expense;

(e)shall be afforded facilities to examine in person or by his legal representative the witnesses called by the prosecution before the court, and to obtain the attendance and carry out the examination of witnesses to testify on his behalf before the court on the same conditions as those applying to witnesses called by the prosecution;

(f)shall be permitted to have without payment the assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand the language used at the trial of the charge; and

(g)shall when charged on information in the High Court, have the right to trial by jury;

and, except with his own consent, the trial shall not take place in his absence, unless he so conducts himself in the court as to render the continuance of the proceedings in his presence impracticable and the court has ordered him to be removed and the trial to proceed in his absence, or unless, having had reasonable notice of the hearing and of the nature of the offence charged, he is voluntarily absent from the proceedings.

(3) When a person is tried for any criminal offence, the accused person or any person authorised by him in that behalf shall, if he so requires and subject to payment of such reasonable fee as may be prescribed by law, be given within a reasonable time after judgement a copy for the use of the accused of any record of the proceedings made by or on behalf of the court.

(4) No person shall be held to be guilty of a criminal offence on account of any act or omission that did not, at the time it took place, constitute such an offence, and no penalty shall be imposed for any criminal offence that is severer in degree or description than the maximum penalty that might have been imposed for that offence at the time when it was committed.

(5) No person who shows that he has been tried by a competent court for a criminal offence and either convicted or acquitted shall again be tried for that offence or for any other criminal offence of which he could have been convicted at the trial for that offence, save upon the order of a superior court in the course of appeal or review proceedings relating to the conviction or acquittal.

(6) No person shall be tried for a criminal offence if he shows that he has been pardoned for that offence under section 7 of this Constitution.

(7) No person who is tried for a criminal offence shall be compelled to give evidence at the trial.

(8) Any court or other adjudicating authority prescribed by law for the determination of the existence or extent of any civil right or obligation shall be established by law and shall be independent and impartial; and where proceedings for such a determination are instituted by any person before such a court or other adjudicating authority, the case shall be determined fairly within a reasonable time.

(9) All proceedings instituted in any court for the determination of the existence or extent of any civil right or obligation, including the announcement of the decision of the court, shall be held in public.

(10) Nothing in subsection (9) of this section shall prevent the court from excluding from the proceedings persons other than the parties thereto and their legal representatives to such extent as the court—

(a)may be empowered by law so to do and may consider necessary or expedient in circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice, or in interlocutory proceedings or in the interests of public morality, the welfare of persons under the age of eighteen years or the protection of commercial confidence or the private lives of persons concerned in the proceedings; or

(b)may be empowered or required by law so to do in the interests of defence, public safety or public order.

(11) Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of—

(a)subsection (2)(a) of this section to the extent that the law in question imposes upon any person charged with a criminal offence the burden of proving particular facts;

(b)subsection (2)(e) of this section to the extent that the law in question imposes conditions that must be satisfied if witnesses called to testify on behalf of an accused person are to be paid their expenses out of public funds;

(c)subsection (5) of this section to the extent that the law in question authorises a court to try a member of a disciplined force for a criminal offence notwithstanding any trial and conviction or acquittal of that member under the disciplinary law of that force, save that any court so trying such a member and convicting him shall in sentencing him to any punishment take into account any punishment awarded him under that disciplinary law.

(12) In this section, “legal representative” means a person entitled to practise in Montserrat as an attorney.

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