Corruption choking courts
Arthur Hall and Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writers
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has again expressed concern about what he describes as the formidable level of corruption in the country's legal system.
Chuck has also admitted that the justice system is in a crisis and urgently needs improvement.
Addressing a graduation exercise at the Norman Manley Law School in St Andrew last Saturday, the minister charged that there has been dishonesty in all areas of the justice system.
"It is for this reason that one of the priorities of my ministry under our Justice Reform Programme is to build trust and confidence in the justice system," said Chuck as he told the graduates that they are entering a system that is being threatened by corruption.
"There is corruption within the court and the justice system, where the police have been paid to say they cannot find a witness, or persons have been paid to have documents destroyed - amongst many other things," said Chuck.
"Cases languish on the books for years with very little progress, clients become frustrated and cannot move on with their lives, sometimes they appease their grievances by taking justice into their own hands," added Chuck.
He noted that developments in the system leave lawyers with a bad reputation as being of no help while the justice system gets a bad reputation of being of no use.
"What I'm asking you, what I'm exhorting you, do not be tempted to contribute to the problems of the justice system."
He told the graduates that if Jamaica cannot remove corruption from its justice system, it is unlikely that corruption will be removed from anywhere else.
Integrity and fair play
"Our judges are known for their integrity and fair play but so much more is required of them. They must assist in removing any taint of corruption, vulgarity or malpractice that may exist and they must help us to strengthen public trust and confidence in the justice system."
The justice minister noted that there are hundreds of thousands of cases that are in the court system for eight months or longer - many for years.
Last year there were almost 460,000 cases before the courts - with more than half being in a state of backlog.
Chuck said stemming the backlog in the court system was everybody's business as the issue poses real threats to the nation's economy.
"We are in need of lawyers to resolve honestly, the multiplicity of disputes. I urge all of you, regardless of where you practice, to look for ways in which you can assist your clients to settle matters outside of the courtroom, wherever this is possible," he urged the graduates.