Don’t blame us, blame the Government – Chief Justice
Chief Justice Zaila McCalla has moved to defend the judiciary following complaints from Police Commissioner George Quallo about the length of time it is taking to move cases through the court.
At a media briefing on Tuesday Quallo expressed frustration at the snail's pace at which Jamaica's judicial system operates as he noted that it takes an average of seven years for matters to be ventilated in court.
"If this trend continues the 967 persons we arrested for murder last year and the 284 we arrested up to June 10 this year are not likely to face trial until 2024," Quallo lamented.
But in a release late yesterday McCalla said while she shared the concerns of Quallo the judiciary is not to be blamed.
“Despite our best efforts, however, it must also be noted that the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Finance have responsibility to provide adequate physical and human resources to enable the courts to handle the increasingly heavy case loads.
“The provision of these resources has historically and continues to be woefully inadequate. This has negatively impacted the courts ability to deal with the vast and increasing number of cases in the system,” said McCalla.
“We in the judiciary however continue to work assiduously, within the available resources, to improve the delivery of justice,” added McCalla.
The chief justice noted that only one case can be tried in each court at a time and some cases will take longer than others, based on their nature and complexity.
She said there have also been a number of occasions when several cases have been ready for trial in the limited number of courts, but only one could be accommodated in each Court on a given day.
“Within the constraints of available human and physical resources, we in the Judiciary have been undertaking several Case Management Initiatives to increase the efficiency of the operation of the courts and improve service to the public.”
Among the incentives pointed to by McCalla are:
1. Agreement evidence to enable cases to be tried only on relevant issues. This saves time and expenses.
2. Advance Sentence Indications in order to encourage more persons to plead guilty if they are in fact guilty. (Recent legislation has also made generous provisions for persons who plead guilty, especially at an early stage).
3. Specialised Criminal Courts to deal with appropriate cases expeditiously.
4. Outreach sensitisation sessions in various regions across the island with all stake holders including defence attorneys, prosecutors, police officers and medical practitioners to encourage these groups to embrace new measures to achieve greater efficiency.
“At these sessions it has been emphasised that in order for these measures to be successful, it is not enough for accused persons to be arrested and charged. Cases must be properly investigated, case files adequately completed and most importantly, presented to the court at an early stage so as to enable accused persons to be aware of the case that they have to meet.
“When files are not completed at an early stage, defence attorneys have indicated that it is difficult to properly advise their clients as to whether or not they should enter guilty pleas,” added McCalla.