In the Director of Public Prosecutions et al v Roddy Felix et al this Court considered whether the power of the Director of Public Prosecutions and/or the Commissioner of Police to initiate criminal proceedings is suspended pending the outcome of a coroner’s inquiry in circumstances that bring section 9 of the Coroners Act into play.
The Court examined the relationship between section 71 of the Grenada Constitution Order, 1973 which deals with the DPP’s power to initiate, take over and continue, or discontinue criminal proceedings etc and the Coroners Act. The Court held that both the DPP and the Commissioner have the power to initiate criminal proceedings and that nothing in the Coroners Act postpones or takes away that right. If these officials have to await the outcome of a coroner’s inquest before they can initiate criminal proceedings, it would be a restriction on their powers, and, in the case of the DPP, a breach of section 71 of the Constitution. The Coroners Act contains one of the two ways of initiating criminal proceedings in the case of a suspicious death of a person in custody. It does not shut out or postpone the alternative route of the Commissioner or the DPP exercising their independent power to initiate murder or manslaughter proceedings in the Magistrate’s Court.
The Court also found that the DPP’s powers to initiate, take over and continue, or discontinue criminal proceedings at such times as the DDP sees fit are clearly defined in section 71 of the Constitution. Restricting the DPP’s constitutional power to prosecute criminal offences by an existing law, namely, section 9 of the Coroners Act, would be an improper, if not contrary use of the existing law principle. Section 9 should not be construed by reading into the section a limit on the DPP’s constitutional powers. If anything, the coroner’s mandatory duty under section 9 should be construed as being subject to the DPP’s overarching constitutional power to control criminal proceedings. The power to prevent the DPP and the Commissioner from commencing criminal proceedings was not included in the Coroners Act and that power should not be implied into the Act. Even if the power could be implied into section 9, it would be inconsistent with section 71 of the Constitution and to that extent would be void, or, as an existing law, would be required to be read with such modification as to yield to the provisions of section 71 of the Constitution.