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Chuck aims for early October completion of amended plea bargain legislation

Published:Saturday | September 10, 2016 | 9:39 PM
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck says work on the proposed amendments to the plea bargain legislation is expected to be completed early next month.

Chuck says he has instructed the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to treat the proposed legislation as a matter of priority.

The Criminal Justice [Plea Negotiations and Agreement] Act was enacted in 2006 to encourage accused persons to plead guilty and give testimony or information in exchange for a reduced penalty.

The legislation was amended in 2010, but has still faced criticisms from members of the legal fraternity who say it does not provide enough incentive for accused persons to plead guilty.

In an interview with the Jamaica Information Service yesterday, Chuck revealed that less than one per cent of cases in Jamaica are resolved by plea bargaining.

The Justice Ministry says the amendments now being considered are intended to increase the use of plea bargain as part of the sentencing arrangement.

Meanwhile, the Justice Minister is again pointing to the need for Jamaica to develop proper sentencing guidelines for judges.

Chuck says this has to be part of the plea bargain arrangement in order to make it easier for accused persons to accept recommended reduced sentences

Seeking to explain his position, Chuck, who is an attorney-at-law, says once prosecutors and defence attorneys sign-off on a recommended sentence, accused persons should feel assured that the presiding judge will go along with it or not deviate too far from it.

He reiterated that plea bargaining will help to reduce the heavy backlog of cases in the court system.