Fri | Dec 1, 2023

8-yr delay in ruling blamed on audio recording project

Published:Monday | November 20, 2023 | 12:10 AMBarbara Gayle/Gleaner Writer

It took a litigant almost eight years to get a ruling after judgment was reserved in a civil suit he brought in the Supreme Court against the Transport Authority of Jamaica. But Justice Leighton Pusey has blamed a pilot project for audio recordings for the long delay.

Last week, the court reporters who provide verbatim notes of cases, spoke out about the injustices they face on the job and how important their roles are in the speedy dispensation of justice.

Judgment in the case of Darwin Williams was reserved on December 18, 2015 and a decision was handed down on October 27 this year.

Pusey, in apologising for the delay, said that “at the trial, the court had embarked on a pilot project of audio-recording equipment in which matters were tried without the usual note-taking by the judge as the parties would rely on an audio recording system.

He added, “Aspects of the project did not live up to expectations, which contributed to the inordinate delay in the delivery of this judgment. The court regrets this inordinate delay and sincerely apologises to the parties for the delay of this judgment. Further, the court wishes to indicate that it had sufficient material to decide upon this matter.”

The Supreme Court, to date, is not equipped for audio recording, and judges in the civil court have to be taking their own notes as there are not enough court reporters to man those courts. “Real-time reporting is the way to go,” says one of the judges.

Machines outdated

However, just a few of the court reporters are doing real-time reporting in which the judges can access the notes while in court because they say most of their machines are outdated.

“And members of the public and the authorities must never forget that judges are overburdened with work and most of their judgments and reading of cases are done at home during the time when they should be resting after a long and hard day at work. So I do sympathise with the court reporters because they, too, are overburdened with work because of shortage of staff,” another judge said.

The complement for court reporters is 45, but the number has dwindled to 24, which is due mainly to insufficient pay and long working hours. Some of the circuit courts are now facing closures because of the shortage of court reporters.

Seizure of vehicle

Williams had sued the Transport Authority over the seizure of his Nissan Station Wagon motor vehicle on January 14, 2010, in Portland by one of its employees. The vehicle was taken to the pound in Norwich, Portland, and Williams contended in the suit filed in July 2011 that the seizure was unlawful. He was prosecuted for not having the proper documentation to operate a public-passenger vehicle. The case was dismissed in November 2010 for want of prosecution.

The defendant, in response to the suit, stated that it had reasonable cause to seize the vehicle because the claimant did not have the requisite licence and insurance to operate a public-passenger vehicle.

Pusey, after hearing evidence and legal submissions, ruled that the vehicle was lawfully detained and there was reasonable and probable cause to prosecute and seize the vehicle. The judge found that although there were unconditional and specific demands by the claimant to deliver the vehicle, the claimant did not prove that there was a categorical and/or unequivocal refusal by the defendant to comply with the demand. The judge said further that he did not find that the defendant or its employees acted in any manner inconsistent with the claimant’s rights to the vehicle.

Williams, who was represented by attorney-at-law Jacqueline Cummings, had his claim for damages for wrongful detention of his vehicle and malicious prosecution dismissed. The parties will bear their own costs, the judge ruled.

Attorney-at-law Dale Austin, instructed by the director of state proceedings, represented the defendant.