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Record justice - Sykes pledges fast track for divorces, judgments and more

Published:Sunday | March 10, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Chief Justice Bryan Sykes

Chief Justice Bryan Sykes has promised record delivery of Supreme Court judgments, divorces and estate claims, outlining a three-pronged strategy aimed at strengthening Jamaica’s judiciary in order to achieve the country’s Vision 2030 ambitions.

In a national address broadcast last night, Sykes said he believed that the Jamaican judiciary had the potential to be the best in the Caribbean in three years and among the best in the world in six years.

“To support this vision, I give my commitment to put in place measures so that by December 31, 2019, all outstanding judgments in the Supreme Court will be delivered. As of 2020, a judgment should be delivered within 90 days, and, in exceptional cases, 180 days following completion of the case,” Sykes noted.

Additionally, he said that courts will start on time and that trials will proceed at a faster and more productive rate. All stakeholders – judges, court staff, witnesses, jurors, attorneys-at-law, police officers and others – he urged, must resolve to come to court to assist in the administration of justice.

While acknowledging that there have been improvements to the flow of court cases, the chief justice said systemic deficiencies that cause courtroom backlogs will have to be addressed.

He further stated that the Court of Appeal should also increase its disposal rate as, since January 2019, three additional judges had been installed, with three more to be added later this year.

“The consequence of hearing and trial-date certainty is that cases are disposed of within stated time standards. In Jamaica, this means disposing of cases within 24 months of entry into the courts.

“Statistics show that more than 100 cases are being disposed of for every 100 cases filed in some divisions of the Supreme Court, the Gun Court and Parish Courts, and for the first time last year, seven Parish Courts had a clearance rate over 100 per cent. This has set the platform for us to clear the current backlog within six years,” said Sykes.

Sykes also committed to ensuring that court resources would be efficiently utilised.

“It is our goal to decrease the waiting time for the adjudication of some matters. For example, in divorce matters, once the documents are submitted error free, the decree absolute will be issued within 16 weeks. By December 31, 2019, there will be no outstanding divorces. That is our commitment to you,” Sykes said.

He made the commitment that once all documents were submitted error free, Supreme Court staff will ensure that matters of probate and letters of administration – establishing the validity of wills and dealing with the estates of persons who died without a will – would take no longer than 12 weeks.

“Excellent courts mean that we have a culture of service among staff and judges. Research has shown that the perception of court users is influenced by how they are treated and not only by the outcome of their cases,” he said.