Thu | Nov 23, 2017

Bigamy Alert - Fake judges signing decrees at Supreme Court causing married people to get married again

Published:Saturday | September 23, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Delroy Chuck

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has suggested that persons who recently obtained a divorce decree should check with the Supreme Court to ensure that it is valid.

Chuck made the suggestion yesterday following his shocking revelation that the Justice Ministry has discovered cases where divorce decrees stamped by the Registrar of the Supreme Court are being signed by fictitious judges.

"They would have to take it [divorce decree] back to the Supreme Court for verification," he told The Gleaner.

According to Chuck, the divorce documents bearing the signatures of fake judges were first discovered when they were presented to his ministry by persons who, having obtained them, got married again and applied for new marriage licences.

He pointed to one case in which a divorce decree was signed by a 'James Brown'. "There is no judge known as James Brown," he insisted.

"This, to my mind, is just a scandal of the highest order. The whole divorce section [of the Supreme Court] has been corrupted!" Chuck declared, during an appearance on 'Independent Talk' on Power106FM yesterday.

He said that the ministry has no idea of the extent of the scandal but revealed that it has been turned over to investigators at the Police Fraud Squad.

The decree absolute is the second of two documents required to dissolve a marriage. It is a criminal offence for a person who is married to walk down the aisle a second time without first obtaining a divorce.

Chuck revealed, too, that several persons from the divorce unit have been charged with corruption, "but it seems many more rogue employees are there".

He acknowledged also that widespread delays in the public sector facilitate corruption.

... Delays facilitate corruption

Jacqueline Cummings, president of the Jamaican Bar Association, has described the delays in completing the divorce process as chronic.

"When I left law school (1991), a divorce would take three months. Now, it's taking a year," she said.

Cummings said that over the period, the process for filing divorces has changed so that the claimant is no longer required to appear before a judge and could, therefore, make the application from anywhere in the world.

At the same time, she said, there has been an increase in the number of divorce applications.

Cummings said that under the old system, there was less need for paperwork in divorce proceedings when applicants would make their cases before a judge.

Even so, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck says that there is no reason why a divorce should not be done in a few months.

"It doesn't require judicial time. It requires some of our workers just putting their minds to it. Get it to the registrar, and let the registrar sign off as soon as possible."