Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
JAMAICA'S AILING justice system came in for sharp criticism from the US Department of State in its 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) which has been submitted to the US Congress for review.
Painting the country's criminal justice system as "overburdened, underfunded and sluggish", the report stated that progress had been made in combating narcotics, trafficking and corruption, but this effort has been hobbled by a justice system with limited effectiveness in obtaining criminal convictions.
lack of resources
A parliamentary oversight committee recently demanded answers from the justice ministry about plans to reduce the 400,000 backlog of cases in the nation's courts islandwide.
The committee instructed the permanent secretary to prepare a full report on the backlog of cases for a meeting to be held early in the new parliamentary year, which begins in April.
The INCSR said the Government and law-enforcement authorities were committed to combating narcotics and trafficking. "However, despite competent leadership and political will, their efforts were only moderately effective in 2012 because of a lack of sufficient resources, corruption, and an inefficient criminal justice system."
According to the report, the conviction rate for murder in Jamaica was five per cent, adding that a culture of trial postponements and delay could be contributory factors to the low out-turn. "This lack of efficacy contributes to impunity for many of the worst criminal offenders and gangs, an abnormally high rate of violent crimes, lack of cooperation by witnesses and jurors, frustration among police officers and the public, a significant social cost and drain on the economy, and a disincentive for international investment," the document stated.
The report stressed that the work of Jamaica's law-enforcement agencies was being obstructed by the inability of prosecutors and the courts to secure prompt convictions.
Washington said it will continue to support efforts to reform and strengthen the judicial system.