Thu | Jan 17, 2019

Mark Wignall | Acting or full-time, justice is messed up

Published:Thursday | February 8, 2018 | 12:00 AM

The delivery of justice in Jamaica has to be at the top of the list of this nation's great failures. Nowhere was that more aptly demonstrated than in the Supreme Court where a matter is currently being adjudged with a man accused of killing six members of a family back in 2006 - 12 years ago.

This was not an investigation that had gone cold but smart detectives had recently identified who they thought was the number one suspect and the case was being brought up for the first time.

This is a multiple-murder case being tried not because there was any particular urgency attached to such a heinous matter but, instead, it was happening as the natural flow of the delivery of justice in a badly clogged-up system where waiting 12 years moving from the back of the line is standard procedure.

Our esteemed director of public prosecutions (DPP) is Paula Llewellyn. QC. She is a no-nonsense prosecutor who recognises that the office she holds is akin to lifting a ton of scrap iron by using only her nicely polished fingernails. Physically, there are not enough rooms to house court proceedings and, as a violence-producing nation, the feedstock for our courts is always overwhelming the system.

Much has been made of the prime minister's appointment of Justice Bryan Sykes as acting chief justice. I believe Prime Minister Holness is having a bad reaction to the pressures building up on trying to contain the murder rate and the 'gunmanship' in this country, hence his stumbling over the appointment.

Does the PM know something that we do not know? Does he think Justice Sykes is a strong closet supporter of the PNP? We could probably rule that out if we believe the prime minister when he explained that he does not really know Sykes.

Holness' human traits and weaknesses, that element that all good leaders are supposed to keep well tamped down, have spilled over and he seems to be having anger spells in his response to those who have torn at what they see as his 'acting' debacle.




While I believe Sykes should be fully appointed, I fail to see what tangible difference it would make to the countless thousands upon thousands of people waiting on the courts to give them justice, whether Sykes is temporarily acting or performing full-time.

Llewellyn, as the nation's top prosecutor, needs the support of the members of the JCF, especially its staff of good, professional detectives. It was only natural, therefore, that she would come out criticising Professor Anthony Harriott, who has labelled the culture of the JCF as 'toxic'.

Speak to 1,000 Jamaicans and 900 would agree with Harriott. Why would they? Either by personal experience with JCF members or observation and community word-of-mouth assessment. In any case, where the public perception is overwhelming, that toxicity becomes the known culture.

I would not want to accuse Llewellyn of hypocrisy because I know her as a straight-talker. I also believe that if she should hang out her shingle and go full private sector, she would make much more money than the pittance she earns from taxpayers, because she is a cut above the rest.

Although the DPP has seen and witnessed, through the courts, many of the horrors that some of us are unaware of, she is also a Jamaican with her ears close to the ground like the man at street level. She would know what people are saying of the police and its toxic culture, even if they would use different words to describe the same horribly flawed trait.

But, in the spirit of recognising that she needs to be seen pulling up the JCF instead of highlighting its major destructive elements, Harriott was quite a convenient target.

Here is perfection - an adequately staffed DPP's office, excellent detectives in the JCF, increased courtroom space, maximum time for disposal of cases, three years, average disposal time, under one year. Well-paid detectives and prosecutors and the public growing in trust that the system works.

Oh, sorry, Justice Sykes, Ms Llewellyn, acting commissioner of police. I was in a different time and my dreams were running far ahead of me. So sorry.

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