Wed | Jun 28, 2017

No justice means no peace

Published:Tuesday | March 17, 2015 | 3:00 AM
Kent Gammon

With approximately 50 per cent of serious crimes in Jamaica unsolved, thousands of families have no justice and this means no peace for many. The budget for the Ministry of National Security has been projected to decrease compared to last year by 2 per cent at a time when murder, the worst crime of all, has increased by 18 per cent over last year.

Crime continues to be Jamaica's biggest obstacle to achieving growth and development. Crime impacts the county's economy by at least $100 million; money that would be better spent on medical care and education.

The budget for the Ministry of Justice over last year has increased by 18 per cent, which is woefully inadequate to improve the justice service. Many persons do not seem to understand that the efficiency of the justice system has an impact on foreign investment as people will invest their money not only for viable returns, but when they know that, if a dispute arises, they can seek redress in court in an efficient manner.

The justice system and the condition of the Resident Magistrates' Courts across the island, save for the Port Antonio Resident Magistrate's Court, thanks to the private donations, are a disgrace to our nation.

Justice is always treated like a poor second cousin.

The People's National Party, being more interested in winning elections than governing responsibly, places little priority on justice for the Jamaican people. If they did prioritise justice for all citizens, all acts of perversion of justice would be severely punished.

The creation of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) in 2010 evidenced a clear respect for the rights of the Jamaican people, a body that is resisted every way possible by the police.

The fact that the INDECOM is not funded with the resources requested is another clear indication that this administration does not place justice as a priority.

The first step in fixing the justice system in Jamaica is to improve and upgrade courts across the island. The recent closure by the Public Health Department of the Santa Cruz Resident Magistrate's Courthouse is proof positive of the scant regard this administration pays to dispensing justice to the poor.

Often, the air conditioning stops working at the Resident Magistrate's Court for Kingston and St Andrew, creating an unpleasant environment and frustration for staff already coping with cramped space and antiquated facilities.

The second step is to appoint the full complement of 40 high court judges at the Supreme Court of Judicature. The legislation is for 40 high court judges, but we only have 37 high-court judges at present.

 

Longer hours

 

The third step is to extend the court hours from the current 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. period. Why not extend the court hours to 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.? And how about night courts to clear up the backlog of cases yet to be tried? In New York, they have night courts, why can't we as well?

The fourth step is to clean up Justice Square in Kingston and make it a commercial zone. If we were to allow for businesses to set up kiosks and move the vagrants from there to a place of safety, it would not only drastically improve the surroundings of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, but would improve the economy.

The fifth step is to pass 'Victim Impact Statements' legislation in Jamaica. This would allow persons most directly affected by crime to address the court during the decision-making process. The police should be strong advocates for this legislation instead of spending their time trying to dismantle INDECOM.

The words "Justice, truth be ours forever" are a part of our national anthem, and it is an indictment on us as a people that we accept the deplorable state of justice in Jamaica today.

- Kent Gammon is deputy opposition spokesman on justice. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.