Tue | Feb 21, 2017

Chief justice urges offenders to plead guilty to ease backlog

Published:Thursday | September 18, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force band perform during the opening of the Home Circuit Court's Michaelmas term in downtown Kingston on Tuesday. In the background is the new North Circuit Court.

Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator

THE LARGE number of cases being traversed from one session to the next over the last decade was one of the concerns raised by defence lawyer Leroy Equiano at Tuesday's opening of the Michaelmas session of the Home Circuit Court.

Equiano said last term, he had 18 murder cases on his list and only two of them were tried.

"We need to find a way to have these cases tried," Equiano said as he referred to the 483 cases which have been traversed from the previous term. The new term has 507 cases for trial as 24 new cases have been added.

In response to Equiano's concerns, Chief Justice Zaila McCalla referred to the Vybz Kartel murder case which lasted for several weeks.

"I am concerned with those cases where the matter had to be adjourned and the courtroom left empty because we could not proceed," Equiano said.

"I agree with you on this. It must not happen, and we are making strenuous effort for that not to happen," the chief justice said.

Equiano said there were days when courts were adjourned for an entire day to look for a witness, and that should not happen.

PLEDGE TO GIVE THEIR ALL

Equiano, who was speaking on behalf of the private Bar, said the members would do everything in their power to have the court system working efficiently.

McCalla said as a result of the high crime rate, there were more cases coming into the system. She pointed out that the Circuit Courts were overburdened as there is shortage of manpower and financial constraints.

The chief justice made a special plea for persons who know they were guilty to plead guilty and stop wasting the court's time. She called for all stakeholders in the justice system to make valiant efforts to reduce the backlog of cases in the system.

She expressed the hope that legislation will be passed early this term to increase the number of judges.

During the Easter term this year, 557 cases were listed for trial and 74 were disposed of. The list this term comprises of 350 murder cases, nine cases involving lottery-scamming, 93 are related to sexual offences, and seven human trafficking cases.

barbara.gayle@gleanerjm.com