Sun | Nov 29, 2020

Court backlog worsening - DPP blames same number of rooms to deal with triple crime rate; increase in cases

Published:Thursday | August 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Paula Llewellyn

When the Home Circuit Court opened for the Easter term in April this year, the backlog of cases was at 707.

At the end of the term, which lasted just over three months, 119 cases were removed from the list, but the backlog still ballooned to 733.

When the Easter term ended last year, there were 488 cases on the court list, statistics compiled by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) have revealed.

The offences of carnal abuse and sexual intercourse with a person under 16 years old accounted for the biggest jump, moving from just 16 last year to 110 this year.

Among the reasons for the increase, according to Paula Llewellyn, the director of public prosecutions (DPP), is decades of neglect of the judicial system by successive administrations and the worsening crime rate.

Llewellyn said that the capacity of the nation's courts should have been enlarged at least 15 years ago, "with a consequent enlargement of [related] resources" such as judges, prosecutors, and court staff.

"So over the last 30 years, we've had a tripling of the crime rate and the intake of cases into the system and the same number of courts," Llewellyn said in reference to the four courtrooms that comprise the Home Circuit Court.




"We are reaping the benefits of what we have sown because successive governments have treated the justice system like Cinderella without any hope of ever finding a prince," the DPP insisted.

Llewellyn said, too, that the worsening of the case backlog was due to the "tsunami" of cases being unloaded on the courts courtesy of the Committal Proceedings Act.

The legislation was introduced last year to help speed up the disposal of cases by abolishing preliminary enquiries.

However, according to the ODPP statistics, 145 new cases were added to the list for the Home Circuit Court during the just-concluded Easter term, and 106 of them were committals from the Parish Court.

Llewellyn said that this has placed additional burden on her staff.

"I would have thought that before the policy was effected, you would have had an enlargement of the resources in respect of the capacity of the courts. That is what ought to have happened," she said.

The data from the DPP's office show that of the 119 cases that were disposed of during the Easter term, 59 ended with convictions, while 33 ended with acquittals. Llewellyn discontinued 16 cases.

The statistics also revealed that 35 convictions were for sexual offences, while 28 were for murder.