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Light on violence | Courthouses not 'war ready' - Gayle

Published:Monday | April 17, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of crime, Ealan Powell, said the primary cause for the slow pace at which alleged criminals are prosecuted is the lack of capacity in the court system to accommodate the volume of cases, and not the readiness of the case itself.

Speaking at The Gleaner's 'Light on Violence' special forum on crime last Wednesday at the Medallion Hall Hotel in St Andrew, Powell stated that there were many well-prepared cases before the court that were awaiting trial for over five years.

"What we need are more courtrooms, more judges and, overall, more resources. If you have one case in the circuit court going on for six weeks, it means that only that case will get attention in that courthouse for that period. However, there are 500 on the list, so 499 are awaiting the completion of that one," said Powell.




In a similar tone, Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Maxine Jackson voiced that the 'absent' resource capabilities of the court system not only affected case readiness, but also causes witness frustration.

Jackson stated that the resource constraints affect the entire group of entities that work along with the prosecution services, citing the need to import doctors to aid in conducting post-mortem reports.

"A matter doesn't usually take two or three days. It's usually around two weeks, so witnesses are always coming to court and their matters are continually put off, which leads to frustration. More importantly, in the Home Circuit Court in Kingston, there are only four criminal courts. As a result, when those four courts are engaged, any other matter that is ready and on the trial list will have to wait for realistically a week to a week and half."

Anthropologist Herbert Gayle declared that the courts were not 'war ready', stating: "The volume of cases that are coming is not something we're going to be able to solve in the next 50 years. If we don't address the root causes, there's always going to be a flood of cases."