Attorney blames RM, Petty Sessions courts for backlogs

Published: Monday | December 23, 2013 Comments 0

Defence attorney Jacqueline Samuels-Brown is urging the Government to look into addressing the fundamental issues causing delays in the court system if it intends to address backlogs.

Samuels-Brown was reacting to recent comments from Terrence Williams, head of the Independent Commission of Investigations, about how the set-up of the summary courts is contributing to backlog and inefficiency.

Williams had argued that the complex set-up of the Resident Magistrate's and Petty Sessions courts was partly to be blamed for the hefty backlog currently before the courts.

"Jamaica has a unique arrangement in its summary courts (that is the Resident Magistrate's Court and Court of Petty Sessions). It is not uniquely good. It is uniquely bad because it produces delay and inefficiency," Williams had posited.

He said the resident magistrate has three criminal jurisdictions, and in some instances stemming from the same incident, would have to carry out three separate hearings into the same matter.

"I don't know anywhere else in the world that we have a summary court with three criminal jurisdictions. I don't know why this was done in Jamaica," he said.

Williams argued that not only does this make the system complex, but it also "produces ridiculous outcomes".

"I suggest that this is certainly a waste of time, and the answer is to abolish the indictable jurisdiction of the magistrate and to instead say that those offences, which were try-able on indictment by the magistrate, are now summary offences," the attorney said.

Williams put his view forward during the commissioning ceremony for 46 justices of the peace at the Leslie Ridout Hall in Kingston, recently.

Yesterday, Samuels-Brown argued that there were data available to show the number of adjournments and the reasons for those adjournments and that the evidence should be used to fix the system. She said the data should also be made available to the public.

Commenting specifically on a recommendation by Williams to abolish the indictable jurisdiction of the resident magistrate and to allow for one summary jurisdiction, Samuels-Brown said converting matters from one form to another would not address the problem.

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