Gov't to bring legislation to improve plea bargaining
The Government has notified the Parliament that changes are to be made to Jamaica’s plea bargaining laws to increase the likelihood of accused persons using the mechanism.
Justice Minister, Delroy Chuck, yesterday told the House of Representatives that the Criminal Justice (Plea Negotiations and Agreements) Act has been rarely used since coming into effect in 2010.
He informed that between 2010 and 2013, only 10 plea agreements were entered and these were mainly for traffic and sexual offences.
Chuck said one of the main reasons people were not using the mechanism was that they could not be sure what sentence they would receive.
He said lawyers have complained about exposing their clients to a heavy sentence after advising them to plead guilty.
Chuck also said accused persons could only secure a plea deal if they agreed to give information to help the crown in a case and this reduced the likelihood of them pleading guilty.
Chuck says a working group which reviewed the legislation has proposed changes intended to increase plea deals, thereby saving time and resources and ensuring the complainant does not have to relive the traumatic experience.
These include not restricting plea negotiations to cases where the accused gives assistance to the Crown and giving a further reduction when help is given in a case.
Post-sentence plea negotiation is also being recommended and would occur where a prisoner wishes to assist the prosecution in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Chuck said the new rules would also enable both the Prosecution and Defence Counsel to propose in Chambers the sentence which the accused will receive.
The Judge would have the final decision to accept the plea agreement and determine the sentence to be delivered.
Chuck said the arrangement would require trust from the defence and prosecution.