Tue | Oct 23, 2018

Golding disputes number of cases in backlog

Published:Monday | November 7, 2016 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson

Reports that there are more than 400,000 cases in backlog in Jamaica's court system are inaccurate and misleading, Mark Golding, the opposition spokesman on justice, has argued.

According to Golding, there are fewer than 50,000 cases in backlog, a term he said the justice ministry uses to refer to cases in the court system for more than two years that have not been disposed of.

"The vast majority that have been in the system for more than two years were actually traffic tickets which had been unpaid or un-adjudicated and had been issued for September 21, 2010. That date is significant because that was the date when Jamaica shifted from a paper-based ticketing system to an electronic system," Golding told the Senate last week while contributing to the debate on the Restorative Justice Bill, which was was approved with 26 amendments after a marathon sitting.

"As at June 30, 2012, there were 224,341 such un-adjudicated paper-based tickets, which had been issued prior to September 2010. Those, to my mind, should not be treated as part of the backlog in the system because we have moved from that paper-based system and chances are that those tickets may never be adjudicated at all. In fact, I think they should be removed from that system so they don't distort the data about the situation within the courts."

Golding, who served as justice minister between January 2012 and March 2016, said statistics he had from 2013 pointed to less than 20,000 when the cases in backlog from the parish courts, coroner's and the circuit courts were considered.

"I've heard it said repeatedly in the media that we have half a million cases in backlog. The data is very different. The numbers aren't even 50,000 cases in backlog."

"I'm not trying to in any way underemphasise the fact that the system is under stress. The system needs additional resources. The reform programme needs to continue and is, indeed, continuing. I want to emphasise that and lend my support. But, I do think it's important that we don't distort the problem by constantly repeating erroneous data in the public domain."

A Gleaner report in March 2010 pointed to more than 400,000 waiting to the tried.

In June, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck said his ministry employed a statistician to determine the official number of cases in backlog.