~ Pro-bono lawyers continue strike ~
PHILIPSBURG–The Court of First Instance ordered the immediate release of a burglary suspect on Monday due to his not having access to a government pro-bono lawyer since his arrest last week. The pro-bono lawyers went on strike due to a backlog of payments and a promised increase owed by government.
The man was caught red-handed by police last week as part of a burglary investigation. He is believed to be responsible for numerous break-ins that have been taking place in the Philipsburg area, mainly along Boardwalk Boulevard, during the late-night hours over the last two weeks. The judge said he only sees the law, which is that any suspect has a right to legal representation.
The outstanding fees date back to January and the Ministry of Justice has not been responding to the lawyers’ requests for settlement. Chairman of the Section of Criminal Lawyers in St. Maarten Cor Merx informed The Daily Herald on Tuesday that the ministry had asked to sit with two lawyers to discuss the plight of the group.
“The lawyers met with two officials from the Ministry of Justice and were told that there is a financial issue. We are willing to take 75 per cent and the balance at a later time, but what we will not accept is the ministry not keeping to their word,” stated Merx.
Former Prime Minister William Marlin and former Minister of Justice Edson Kirindongo sat with the lawyers last year and agreed to an increase, according to Merx.
“The ministry officials told them on Tuesday that they will not honour the increase because the promise made by the former ministers was a political decision. This is absurd. How can ministers make an agreement and the following year, it’s being brushed off as political decision? What does that mean? We are continuing our strike,” stated Merx.
This newspaper contacted Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever for comment and he said, “This afternoon I met with some of the lawyers that provide pro-bono services in order to understand the entire situation, given the fact that there have been numerous strikes over the last two years without a sustainable solution. Apparently previous discussions and financial decisions were made and never finalised with following the correct legislative trajectory or budgetary support.”
He was also asked whether there would be an immediate solution and whether there is a timeline.
“We are both working diligently on both ends to resolve this as soon as possible. In the interim, I would prefer to see justice prevail in all cases,” he replied.
In the meantime, the strike continues to affect cases where pro-bono lawyers are needed.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/76858-man-released-for-lack-of-legal-representation