DPP, Bar Association president continue to push sentence reduction initiative
Two of the strongest advocates of the Sentencing Reduction Day initiative, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Paula Llewellyn, and president of the Jamaican Bar Association, Jacqueline Cummings, are continuing to sing its praise, despite criticisms from some senior players in the justice system and some members of the public.
Last week, Llewellyn reiterated her claim that the initiative not only saves the prosecution's time but also that of defence attorneys who know their clients cannot win in court.
"When the defence realises that they don't have any case, what would normally happen is that they just try to drag it out," said Llewellyn.
"We are finding that some persons are now stepping up to the plate and are willing to advise their clients to plead guilty."
Llewellyn said the sentence reduction initiative has not only been doing well in Kingston, but also in rural parishes, including Manchester, where late last year the Circuit Court had 138 matters that were to be heard in three weeks. Of that number, 22 matters were disposed of, 13 by way of guilty pleas.
"So what we are finding is that if you are looking now at the list of disposals in the country parishes, more than half the numbers are by way of guilty pleas. Formerly, you would have had below half," said Llewellyn.
She argued that the number of guilty pleas speaks highly of the level of investigations being carried out by the police.
"Very often, a lot of people like to beat up on the police, and it is quite unfortunate, because we still have quite a few people in the system who do good work. If we did not have the police doing good investigations, then we wouldn't have so many guilty pleas," added Llewellyn.
INITIATIVE HELPS TO CLEAR BACKLOG
In the meantime, Cummings lauded the initiative, which she said has not only helped to clear the backlog of cases but gives accused persons the incentive to take responsibility for their actions.
"We are seeing the results already in the Gun Court and in the Circuit Courts. Persons now have a feel of what their sentences will be, and they will plead rather than take their chances with the judge and get a heavier sentence," said Cummings.
She argued that the ability to plead guilty offers young offenders a chance to serve their sentences and return to society with enough time to live efficient, rehabilitated lives.
"I just want the public to understand that our judicial system is made up of judges who are experienced and who understand what is happening out there in society. We can't let things frighten us. We have persons in prison for the last 25 years, whose lives have been completely transformed, but because of their sentences, they have to remain there," said Cummings.