THE EDITOR, Sir:
Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) notes the editorial of March 5, 2013. We are grateful for the attention it shines on the unacceptably long delays attendant on coroner's inquests, generally, and the Michael Scarlett case, in particular. We find no fault with the sentiments expressed.
We must, however, seek to correct the mistake contained in the editorial as it relates to the Office of the Special Coroner, a mistake that is understandable, given the paucity of impact that the office has had on the delays and backlogs in the coroner's courts in relation to inquests concerning the death of citizens at the hands of the State.
The Office of the Special Coroner was established in February 2011 and the special coroner, Mr William Campbell, began work at that time. The office has a staff complement of one special coroner, one clerk and one bailiff, a backlog of more than 300 cases and gets between 60 and 80 cases per year referred to it for hearing. Given that, at his most efficient functioning, the special coroner can expect to complete about 60 cases per year, the impossibility of the task facing him is evident.
Couple this with the inability (unwillingness?) of the Police Courts and Detention Division to serve the summonses to jurors and witnesses in these cases, and the unwillingness (inability?) of the Ministry of Justice to provide the funding for the additional 'assistant special coroners' who are clearly needed, and it becomes clear why delays of more than five years are the norm for ALL cases involving death at the hands of agents of the state sent to the coroner's courts.
As a final irony, or cruel twist of the knife, JFJ has been made to understand that in less than a month, the two policemen charged with the death of Michael Scarlett have had their cases disposed of in the Supreme Court, with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) offering no evidence, and a jury being instructed to return a verdict of not guilty.
As this occurred without any notification of the family or their attorney, JFJ has written to the DPP asking her to confirm that this has, in fact, occurred and requesting the reasons for this action. We await her response.
J. CAROLYN GOMES
Jamaicans For Justice