Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Abolition of prelims can speed up court cases, say attorneys

Published:Friday | April 8, 2016 | 4:00 AM

Western Bureau:

Although there is a general perception that the courts dispense justice too slowly, immediate past president of the Cornwall Bar Association Michael Erskine believes there have been improvements in court management, particularly following the activation of a new law abolishing the preliminary enquiry system.

"The chief justice has been cognisant of the problem and has been trying to put in place court management strategies that will improve the situation, and there is a new law that is passed to eliminate criminal enquiries that is aimed at moving the process along faster," said Erskine, making reference to the abolition of preliminary examination proceedings by the Committal Proceedings Act of 2013, which came into effect in January this year.

 

Evidence not necessary

 

One result of the passage of the act is that the prosecution in serious cases such as murder and sexual offences, at the parish court level, no longer needs to present the evidence of the prosecution's witnesses and have them cross-examined by the accused individual just to determine if the case is able to be tried in the Circuit Court.

Speaking to the pace at which court proceedings are currently going, Erskine heaped praises on the judges at the parish level, who, he said, have been putting systems in place to speed up the resolution of cases.

"Things have been picking up in terms of the pace of how things have been moving. From my viewpoint, the judges are trying their best, and they have put in place certain systems that will make the process move a little faster," said Erskine, though he did not elaborate on what specific measures have been taken.

"I have noticed improvements in the delivery of justice from the time the case comes before the court to the time the case is tried."

Speaking to the potential effectiveness of the recently activated act abolishing preliminary enquires, western Jamaica-based attorney-at-law Lambert Johnson lauded the move for its potential to expedite cases quickly but cautioned that it could lead to a backlog in the Circuit Court.