Saturday 7 December, 2019

Government considers tax-free salaries to attract magistrates

The Government of Saint Lucia seems to have found a way to solve the nagging problem of a lack of applicants to fill the position of magistrate - by contemplating tax-free salaries as an incentive.

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet made mention of that during this week’s pre-cabinet press briefings, stating that magistrates from other jurisdictions, like the Leeward Islands, were unwilling to migrate to similar positions in the Windward Islands.

“We are having a difficulty in recruiting magistrates because when you look at the cost of living and the salary paid to magistrates in the Windward Islands and compare that to the Leeward Islands – big difference,” Chastanet said.

“We are now looking at giving magistrates tax free salaries in this country in order to recruit new magistrates."

The prime minister was at the time speaking of the need to strengthen certain institutions to fight crime and of the huge financial investments his government had undertaken since coming to office in 2016.

He spoke of the Forensic Lab at Tapion, stating it was inoperable when he took office three years ago. However in quick time his government was able to “get it up and operating”.

He mentioned the expense his government undertook to correct the Lab’s structural problems, which included mold.

The prime minister referred to a staffing problem at the facility that his government dealt with by adding five more persons to those that were already there.

He also spoke of CCTV cameras being affixed to the facility and the ongoing upgrade to its communication system.

“That’s a huge investment my government has played in the intelligence part of it. Now we are going to be focussing on staffing the intelligence unit,” Chastanet said.

He made mention of the backlog of cases at the courts when his government took office and how a lack of physical spaces to hold court is affecting his government’s desire to swiftly deal with this backlog.

“We’ve made a huge attempt with Nyerah Court. We (government) are in discussions about bringing in more judges, but I cannot bring in more judges until I have the physical space that would allow me to do that,” Chastanet said.

He sees the construction of a new police headquarters on the site of the of old prison in Castries as the answer to that, stating that the new police headquarters will house six courtrooms - four of which would be dedicated to criminal matters.

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