NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As coronavirus restrictions continue to delay some court hearings, over 100 matters are still awaiting inquest at the Coroner’s Court, according to recent reports.
Her Majesty’s Coroner oversees certain kinds of deaths to determine the identity of the deceased and the circumstances and medical cause of death.
The Coroner’s Court report for July 2019 to June 2020 saw a slight increase in cases waiting to be processed and a decrease in completed matters.
Five matters were partly heard as of June 2020, including three police shootings, a fire and a traffic incident.
Meanwhile, 31 matters were completed during the period of the report.
Among those matters to be heard and closed were high-profile incidents such as the January 2018 plane crash in Mastic Point, Andros, that killed six people.
The coroner ruled the matter accidental.
Another case that dominated headlines was the mysterious hanging of a 25-year-old South African woman at the Atlantis resort in May 2018.
The coroner’s inquest determined that Carla Olga Van Eeden’s death was a homicide.
Between July 2018 and June 2019, there were 52 completed matters.
Matters that have been reviewed and are awaiting inquest include 32 police shootings, four police-involved shootings, 14 missing persons, eight suicides, two alleged suicides, three plane crashes and 17 traffic matters.
Other matters waiting to be heard include five accidental deaths, nine sudden deaths, two drownings, a gunshot matter, a stabbing and a homicide by justifiable force.
At its last report for July 2018 to June 2019, the court had some 82 matters awaiting inquest.
Between 2003 and June 30, 2020, there were 36 police-involved inquests completed in the Coroner’s Court.
Of those matters, 20 were ruled lawful killings, seven were deemed unlawful killings, one ruled a homicide and one a justifiable homicide, one self-defense, one death by natural causes, one accidental death and five “open verdict”.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the judiciary has reduced operations as part of mitigation protocols, among them being the suspension of all jury trials.
Witnesses for 34 people reported to police as having gone missing during Hurricane Dorian recently testified in groups during an inquest, to adhere to COVID-19 protocols.
The attorney general granted permission for the procedure to move forward without a jury in an effort to expedite the matter.
Coroner Jeanine Weech-Gomez was among 10 new judicial appointments recently announced by the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC).
Weech-Gomez, along with Andrew D Forbes, Neil Brathwaite, Camille Darville-Gomez and Juanita Denise Lewis Johnson, were appointed as Supreme Court justices to address staffing shortages.
Appointed as Stipendiary & Circuit Magistrates were Algernon Allen Jr, Kendra Kelly, Shaka Serville, Ian Marie Darville Miller, and Simone Brown, who has been assigned to the northern region.
The new appointments will provide “much-needed additional resources to the judiciary in the discharge of its constitutional duties and functions”, the JLSC noted.