Fri | Jan 28, 2022

Case management system for parish courts next year - Crooks

Published:Wednesday | October 13, 2021 | 12:10 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter
St Ann Parish Court in St Ann’s Bay.
St Ann Parish Court in St Ann’s Bay.

Parish courts across the island will be rolling out a case management programme next year, which will ensure that all criminal matters coming before the court are completed within two years.

Simple and standard criminal cases, however, are expected to be disposed of within six months.

“I will be looking to implement this programme within early to mid next year. This promises to be a paradigm shift for the judiciary at the parish court level, especially as we want to further enhance the confidence of the public that if a matter ends up in the court, it will be dealt with swiftly, decisively and with certainty,” Chief Parish Court Judge Chester Crooks said on Friday.

“Members of the public can be assured that matters will be dealt with in a reasonable time,” he added.

The island’s chief parish court judge, who was speaking on Friday at a virtual conversation with the judiciary, explained that under the differentiated case management system, cases will be categorised according to the level of complexity or simplicity, and be assigned different time standards by which the matter should be brought to a close.

Four case-processing categories, namely, simple, standard, complex and highly complex, have so far been recommended for criminal cases by the Differentiated Case Management Committee, which was formed in March and tasked with setting the time standards for completing various cases, in keeping with the push for trial-date certainty and effective courtroom utilisation. This forms part of the court’s overall strategic plan to reduce its backlog and eliminate adjournments and delays.

“After a matter is filed into the court, it will be assigned to the applicable category, depending on the nature of the matter.

“For the simple cases, we are looking at anywhere from three to six months; in relation to the case in the standard category, we are suggesting six months; for complex cases, we are recommending at least one year; and for highly complex cases, a minimum of two years,” Crooks explained.

At present, he said feedback is being sought from all parish court judges and courts islandwide.

As it relates to civil, family and traffic matters in the parish court, he said the same principle will apply but will be tweaked.

With parish courts accounting for the bulk of the island’s cases, Crooks said it is necessary for the parish court to have an efficient case management programme to ensure that matters are dealt with in a timely manner, in keeping with international standards.

“We’re aiming to have all matters disposed within 24 months from point of entry into the parish court, and we do this against the backdrop and understanding that these are not just cases, but also people’s lives that have been put on hold while they await the decisions of the court to move on with their lives,”the chief parish court judge added.

He further said, “At the parish courts, we believe that we can do much better, and must do better, to create a court system that all Jamaicans can be justly proud of.”