Mon | Oct 22, 2018

Probing Justice | Judges reject blame for delayed judgments

Published:Wednesday | December 27, 2017 | 12:00 AM
The Supreme Court in Kingston.

A Supreme Court judgment, which was reserved in 2010, was finally handed down last month, leaving the litigants fuming over the time it took.

The dispute involved 50 farmers from St Thomas, who, in 2007, went to court after a company erected an iron gate, preventing them from accessing their farms.

Attorney-at-law Joseph Jarrett, who represented the farmers and the St Thomas Municipal Corporation, said that the retired judge prepared an oral judgment, which was read in court.

He said that the ruling was not in his clients' favour, so they are contemplating appealing the

matter as the oral judgment needs some clarification.

"It is really an appalling situation because at least there should have been a written judgment after waiting for seven years," argued Jarrett.

Responding to the seven-year wait for this judgment, one judge told The Gleaner that the wait was unduly long, but he argued that this was not the norm.

According to the judge, the remedy for delays of this nature is to assign a judicial clerk to retired judges to assist them to expedite the process of completing any matters they might have outstanding.

The judge said that there were many law school graduates who are seeking jobs, and some of them could be employed as judicial clerks if the Government was really serious about improving the justice system.

They scoffed at suggestions that the justice ministry could withhold the pension of retired judges until they have submitted outstanding judgments.

"The justice minister has no control over the judiciary, and his function is to find resources for the justice system to operate efficiently," declared one judge.

Another judge argued that Jamaica's high crime rate is the main reason for the backlog of cases.

He noted that on some occasions, witnesses are reluctant to come to court to testify or cannot be located, while in other instances, witnesses do not attend court because they cannot afford bus fare.

"This is one of the problems. The Government must address and ensure that witnesses are reimbursed their bus fares on a daily basis," said the judge.