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Shifting the cards around will not improve court backlog - attorney

Published: Sunday December 22, 2013 | 5:35 pm Comments 0
Defence attorney Jacqueline Samuels Brown
Defence attorney Jacqueline Samuels Brown

Prominent defence attorney Jacqueline Samuels-Brown has dismissed a suggestion for the removal of the indictable jurisdiction of resident magistrates as a solution to clearing the backlog of court cases and improve efficiency in the justice system.

Reacting to INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams' charge that the summary courts were contributing to inefficiencies and the backlog of cases in the courts, Samuels Brown says converting matters from one form to another will not address the problem. Instead, she says government must look at addressing the fundamental issues causing delay in the court system if intends to address the issue of backlog.

Samuels Brown argues that there is data available to show the number of adjournments and the reasons for those adjournments and that the evidence should be used to fix system. She says that 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, the defence attorney points out that among the main problems contributing to the backlog is the unavailability of witnesses, which leads to numerous delays.

She says the authorities must look at the empirical evidence available and use it to address the real problems instead of "shifting the cards around".

Williams had made his recommendations while addressing a commissioning ceremony for 46 justices of the peace in Kingston on December 10. He had said there is also a need to remove the distinction between special statutory summary tried by only magistrates and JP petty sessions to allow for one summary jurisdiction. He says if there is an insistence on making a distinction, it should be made clear what offences a JP cannot try under the summary jurisdiction.

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