Sat | Nov 18, 2017

Fourth Floor | More cash needed for crime fight

Published:Wednesday | July 19, 2017 | 12:00 AMWyvolyn Gager
Frank Phipps

Resources, specifically equipment, money and people, are desperately needed to bolster the country's efforts to bring crime under control and administer justice fairly and effectively.

As Fourth Floor participants tried to dig away at the layers of inefficiency in the criminal justice system it became apparent that shortage of resources was at the heart of the problem.

So even as we bash the police for sloppy investigative work and we question prosecutorial decisions of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the reality is that more funds are needed to support an integrated approach which enhances the ability to investigate, prosecute and convict criminals and keep our communities safe.

In his assessment, noted Queen's Counsel Frank Phipps, says it is more a matter of how resources are allocated.

"We are spending a lot of money, but we are not getting the results we need. Too much money is being spent and it's not being properly spent," he suggested.

Indeed, the current budget has provided an additional $5.5 billion to augment the country's crime-fighting capability. Improving border security, equipping the police with a modern telecommunication system and expanding the forensic capability of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, are among some of the areas marked for attention.

 

55 years later and only four courtrooms

Adley Duncan, a young prosecutor from the DPP's office sees the urgent need for more courtroom space to tackle the backlog that is currently clogging the system.

He pointed to the fact that in 1962 when Jamaica gained Independence, there were four court rooms for jury trial at the Supreme Court and even though the number of criminal cases have skyrocketed there are still only four court rooms. For example, at the beginning of the current term there were 700 cases on the trial list.

"We need more courtrooms, we need more judges, we need more prosecutors and we need more registrars," he suggested. And judges and prosecutors are asking for better pay packages.

Effective policing which will result in the prevention, reduction and detection of crime also needs to be funded. There continues to be complaints about lack of mobility at rural police stations where facilities are said to be under-manned.

The lack of resources and the allocation of resources cannot be ignored and must be a vital part of the national conversation on how to take back the country from criminals. With an unprecedented increase in murders, many Jamaicans now feel as if they are drowning in this rising tide of crime and violence.