Fri | Dec 1, 2023

Letter of the Day | Recalibrate justice system to match crime rate

Published:Thursday | September 22, 2022 | 12:07 AM


The way we define “justice” and the “justice system” is ridiculously inappropriate for the type of crime and violence we are dealing with in Jamaica, land we love.

For one thing, known gunmen terrorise our citizens for years, usually before they can be brought into the justice system. And once the process of “justice” has started, the outcome is so unsure as to render it impotent as a whole. Take a reasonable look at the outcome of the Uchence Wilson Gang trial, and the current proceedings of the Clansman Gang Trial.

That this amount of resources – time, people, money, effort – would be expended, only for most of them to be released back into society on technicality, is unacceptable. Why do we consider that justice? Is that justice for their victims? Is that justice for the people whose lives are dictated by fear of these people?

What is just about a system where the burden of proof is so high that gang leaders can literally laugh at the judge and prosecutor and walk out of court free, sometimes repeatedly. Why should the State carry the same burden of proof to convict known violence producers, as to convict a person who has committed a non-violent crime, or even a person who commits a one-off violent crime, for instance?

A person who has made it their life’s work to kill other people as part of a systematic and organised criminal endeavour should not have the same rights as everybody else; that is a view that must be consigned to the rubbish bin. I am not saying that the burden of proof should be lowered for everyone accused of a crime, or even everyone accused of murder, or rape, or other violent crimes. But we could certainly use some imagination in how we deal with people who serially commit violent crime and visit terror on communities. And divine intervention or discussions with dons do not cut it.

My suggestion is that we develop legislation that outlines a process to arrive at a designation of “public enemy”. A system that might have various intelligence and operations branches present information to a committee. The committee might have representatives from other arms of the JCF, other government departments, and maybe even representatives from NGOs. Upon consideration of the information, a person may be designated a public enemy. Such designation would then be made public, with a directive that the person turn himself in and be subject to the court. However, and this is the different approach, if the person fails to turn himself in, then he becomes a public enemy at large, and police are empowered to shoot to kill. In the same way that we post wanted pictures based on information, we can arrive at a system to make a designation such as this, a designation that has teeth.

This approach may not solve the crime problem, but it will deter some, and it will shorten the time and lessen the effort to arrive at “justice” for violence producers.