Justice delayed, denied!
Slow pace of the court system causes judge to throw out defamation suit
Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator
The long delay in disposing of cases in the courts is causing frustration and severe financial hardships for many of the persons involved.
This was underscored last week by a woman who travelled from Montego Bay, St James, to the Supreme Court building in downtown Kingston for a civil matter only to be told that her case would not be heard until December 2015.
"Those in charge of the justice system ought to realise that when cases drag on for years the lives of those involved and their family members are severely disrupted", declared the woman days before a Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll revealed that 96 per cent of Jamaicans believe that poor people are treated worse than the rich by the court system.
A $13-million lawsuit brought by Eric Hylton in the Supreme Court against his former employer, Jamaica Infrastructure Operator Limited and Denis-Francois Durand, general manager of the company, is one of the many cases moving through the courts at a snail's pace.
Hylton, who was a collector at the Vineyard's Toll Plaza, St Catherine, was arrested and charged in April 2005 with embezzlement and booked to appear before the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court in May 2005.
He attended court for trial more than 30 times in four years between May 2005 and June 2009 when no order was made at the request of the complainant.
It was reported then that out of frustration the complainants decided not to proceed with the case because of the long delay in having the trial completed.
Hylton, who is being represented by attorney-at-law Don O. Foote, subsequently filed a suit in May 2013, seeking damages for false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and defamation.
NO ORDER MADE
Justice Jennifer Straw heard legal arguments in the Supreme Court two weeks ago and ruled that the malicious prosecution claim should proceed because time in relation to that claim began to run when no order was made in the criminal case.
The judge upheld legal arguments by attorney-at-law Georgia Gibson-Henlin who represents the defendants that the other claims were statute-barred.
However, Foote told The Sunday Gleaner that it was unfair for Hylton to be placed before the court and after a protracted delay, the case is withdrawn and now it is being said that the defamation case is out of time.
Foote noted that what Straw found was that the defamation case was statute-barred because under the Limitations of Actions Act six years had passed since the incident.
According to Foote, what it means is that a person should not wait until the end of a trial to file defamation claims.
He said he was happy with the judge's ruling in the malicious prosecution claim that the cause of action did not arise until the court proceedings were disposed of in Hylton's favour.
The attorney argued that if Hylton is successful before the court, the company would owe him $7.7 million for salary and $5 million for pension.