Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Justice in limbo in St James - Almost 200 cases and just one court room

Published:Monday | April 24, 2017 | 4:00 AMChristopher Thomas
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck

Western Bureau:

The need for more courtroom space to adequately address the case-load at the St James Parish Court came into sharp focus during last Wednesday's opening of the St James Circuit Court's Easter session, as only one courtroom was available to address the 191 cases listed for this session.

In speaking to the situation, Maxine Jackson, the lead prosecutor from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), expressed her concerns about the situation to presiding High Court Justice Marcia Dunbar-Green, while outlining the number and types of cases on the Circuit Court's current list.

"This is a tall list that requires a lot of work. We will not be able to dent this list even by one-half without the help of the defence Bar (attorneys)," said Jackson. "We would need more courts, more prosecutors and more judges, and even if we do one matter per day, we would not be able to do all the 191 cases; and to do one matter a day is an impossibility."

In seemingly agreeing with Jackson, Dunbar-Green said the existing situation does not lends itself to the timely dispensation of cases.

"It is important to bear in mind that this court is required to handle the increase (in the number of cases) with the same amount of resources," said Dunbar-Green. "This is not to say that the timely dispensation of cases is to be pursued at the expense of fairness, but the style and manner in which cases are prosecuted must have the timely dispensation of justice as the outcome."

... Chuck found solution at post office

Last year, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, who had previously expressed concerns about the shortage of courtroom space in St James, announced plans for the creation of additional court facilities for the St James Parish Court.

Subsequently, in February of this year, Chuck announced that a section of the Montego Bay Number One Post Office, which adjoins the Parish Court, would be converted into additional space to house extra court facilities. He said it would be done over a two-year period.

"There is a space between the post office and the present court complex which provides the opportunity to expand the court system (premises), and the plan is to build a two-storey complex," Chuck said at the time.

"The bottom floor would be connected to the present main court office, and the top floor, in my estimate, will provide enough space for a courtroom, judge's chambers, and toilet facilities. If everything goes OK, within two years that complex should be up, once we sign off on it and we start putting architectural plans in place."