40 plead guilty - Call for increase in sentence-reduction days as more take up offer
Forty persons yesterday pleaded guilty to murder and other violent crimes, triggering a call for the judiciary to expand its Sentence-Reduction Day initiative to all criminal courts islandwide.
According to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), 26 persons entered guilty pleas in the Gun Court, while 14 persons entered guilty pleas in the Home Circuit Court during the second instalment of Sentence-Reduction Day.
In the Home Circuit, two persons pleaded guilty to murder, four pleaded guilty to manslaughter, while a 17-year-old student was among five persons who admitted to having sex with a person below 16 years old.
In the Gun Court, which is held in camera, the cases ranged from illegal possession of firearm to shooting with intent and robbery with aggravation.
Paula Llewellyn, the nation's chief prosecutor, said that the number of persons who opted to take advantage of the sentence-reduction initiative would have an enormous impact on the pile-up of cases in the Home Circuit Court, located in downtown Kingston.
"I saw indictments with 10, 12, 14 witnesses. Do you know what that would translate to in actual trial time? I would say
based on the pleas that we took, if you were to try all the cases, you would be talking about up to three months of trial time," Llewellyn explained.
"It is the hope that as more awareness takes hold among all stakeholders and clients and families of clients that we will be able to roll out a Sentence-Reduction Day in each parish circuit court islandwide once per term. That, to me, should be the ultimate goal," Llewellyn said.
Sentence-Reduction Day is among a number of measures being implemented by court officials to encourage more accused persons to plead guilty, thereby helping to clear the backlog of cases clogging up the criminal courts.
Approximately 2,000 cases are listed for trial in the circuit courts and 35,000 in the parish courts, a report by the justice ministry has revealed.
When the initiative was first introduced in May this year, only 11 persons opted to take advantage of it.
Accused persons who plead guilty on sentence-reduction days are eligible for a discount of up to 50 per cent in their sentence. The next Sentence-Reduction Day is set for today in the St Catherine Circuit Court.
Among the persons who have placed themselves in line for huge sentencing discounts are Phillip Brown, the construction worker who admitted to beating his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Kerry-Ann Wilson, to death, and Omar Graham, the former employee who staged a bloody rampage at Moncrieffe Patio Shop in March.