Wed | Feb 19, 2020

Get more inmates to flip on crooks, DPP urges

Published:Wednesday | January 8, 2020 | 12:33 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer
Puisne judge, Justice Georgiana Fraser, inspecting a guard of honour in front of the Supreme Court on King Street, downtown Kingston, yesterday. The occasion was the opening ceremony of the Hilary term for the Home Circuit Court.
Puisne judge, Justice Georgiana Fraser, inspecting a guard of honour in front of the Supreme Court on King Street, downtown Kingston, yesterday. The occasion was the opening ceremony of the Hilary term for the Home Circuit Court.

With witness absence cited as a key cause behind the prosecution’s cases crumbling, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn has called for the ramping up of a campaign to get more inmates to plea-bargain, a win-win for the individual and State.

According to Llewellyn, the relevant section of the Plea Negotiations and Agreement was first utilised in the trial of Tesha Miller, who was last month found guilty of accessory before and after the fact to the 2008 murder of Douglas Chambers, former chairman of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company.

Section 20 of the act states: “A convicted person who is serving a sentence and wishes to assist the prosecutor, may enter into post-sentence negotiations and agreements with a view to a reduction in sentence or other benefit.”

During the Miller trial, which began on November 13, 2019, a self-proclaimed member of the Spanish Town-based Clansman Gang, who was serving a life sentence for murder with eligibility for parole after 16 years, entered into a plea deal with the prosecution that saw a reduction of his sentence to a fixed term of 10 years. It was the first time that a prisoner was using that section of the legislation, Llewellyn said.

“Just in case any of my learned friends have amnesia, I would hope that the authorities at the Ministry of Justice, the custodes, and perhaps the Jamaica Information Service and any other entity that is engaged in public education, reach into the prisons and to educate inmates of this particular section, which would be to their benefit once they choose to assist the investigators or prosecutors,” she said.

The DPP was speaking at the opening of the Hilary term at the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston, where it was revealed that there are 989 cases currently before the court. Of that number, there are 551 murder cases, while 303 account for sexual offences. This compares with the corresponding period last year when there were 996 cases, 556 for murder and 333 for sexual offences.

Attempted murder, capital murder, manslaughter and other breaches of the Offences Against the Person Act account for the remainder of cases.

nickoy.wilson@gleanerjm.com