THE MAXIMUM possible number of resident magistrates (RMs) in the country's court system has been increased from 50 to 70.
An amendment to the Judicature (Resident Magistrates) Act was approved by a resolution in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Justice Minister Mark Golding signed the instrument on August 20, allowing for the increase.
The number of RMs was last increased in 2008, moving from 46 to 50.
Attorney General Patrick Atkinson, who piloted the resolution, said the high level of crime has led to an increase in the number of cases before the RM courts.
"Because of the limited resources - both human and infrastructure - the courts have been unable to maintain an acceptable rate of case disposal and this creates a backlog of outstanding cases in these courts," Atkinson said.
While the House has approved the increase in the number of RMs that can be appointed, the country will not see a flood of extra RMs in the courts.
Atkinson told the House on Tuesday that Chief Justice Zaila McCalla has indicated that no more than 10 new RMs will be appointed this fiscal year.
At present, the country is operating with 48 RMs, nine of whom are senior RMs, and six are judges in the Family Court.
Atkinson said the Government was tackling the case backlog in the courts through a number of approaches. He pointed, for example, at the Judicature (Resident Magistrates) Act (Increase in Jurisdiction) Order 2013, which allows RM courts to deal with matters involving up to $2 million.
While welcoming the increase, Opposition Spokesman on Justice Delroy Chuck and South Trelawny Member of Parliament Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert said other issues within the court system should also be urgently tackled.
They both called for additional space to improve the conditions in which RMs sit and dispense justice.