MARIGOT–French Justice Minister and Attorney General Jean-Jacques Urvoas was on an official visit Friday to meet justice officials and for discussions on whether a prison is warranted in French St. Martin and if so what form of penitentiary would be appropriate.
An agreement has also been signed with the Gendarmerie and Police that extends the current period of custody to three days pending fast-track hearings of the offenders (comparution immédiate). Two cells from the Gendarmerie and two from Police aux Frontières will be available.
The Minister and his delegation met with representatives of the Gendarmerie, Police Territorial, Police aux Frontières (PAF), Prosecutors and other elected officials at a round table in the Préfecture in the afternoon to review delinquency statistics and other points.
The Minister had pre-warned that he had not come with a “basket of presents” for a prison but was here to listen to the evidence.
Senator Guillaume Arnell who was in the meeting, however, confirmed a unanimous agreement was reached on the need for a type of prison suitable for St. Martin.
Urvoas, former President of the Laws Commission who collaborated with Member of Parliament (MP) Daniel Gibbs on the Parliamentary Mission and evaluation of Article 74 which resulted in the famous 32 recommendations, began his visit by meeting justice officials in the Palais de Justice and discussing the future annex (chambre détachée) of Guadeloupe’s Court of First Instance which will be located in the former library at the rear of the court.
All is set for the annex to be created, however, Guadeloupe Prosecutor General Samuel Finielz indicated due to delays the renovation work will not start until January 2018. Its purpose is to improve the efficiency of the court system by transferring the maximum of judicial human resources and competences to St. Martin and away from Guadeloupe.
Senator Arnell stated the Collectivité is contributing 150,000 euros to the renovation work (vote passed in the Territorial Council with one abstention) while St. Barths is contributing 600,000 euros.
An agreement has already been signed for the exchange of land between the former library and Gendarmerie in Concordia and subsequent transfer from Ministry of Interior Affairs to Ministry of Justice.
“Even though it is not our responsibility we decided to contribute because if we want proper services for our citizens there is a cost to pay and since we will be getting half of the Gendarmerie it’s a form of compensation,” Arnell remarked. “And next week in Paris I will be defending an amendment to include registration of businesses for the Chamber of Commerce without having to do that in Guadeloupe.”
Daniel Gibbs noted the Minister’s visit was a follow up to the work done already by former Justice Minister Christiane Taubira in 2012, adding that the annex proposal and prison were among the original 32 recommendations.
“I have also emphasised in the meeting not only the importance of re-integrating young offenders into society but also the inconvenience of sending them to prison in Guadeloupe. In a way it’s a double sanction for families who want to visit every week or every month with the cost involved of having to go to Guadeloupe.
“The Minister acknowledged the increase in crime in St. Martin but we need to be clear about what we want, why we want it. We have to ask ourselves if it (prison) is going to be efficient for the territory and question why is crime increasing. If a prison is part of the solution then that’s the path we should follow.”
Source: Daily Herald
Justice Minister’s visit concludes with agreement on need for prison