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Chief Justice to judges: Exercise discretion and give reasons for your decisions

Published:Wednesday | April 16, 2014 | 12:57 PM

Jovan Johnson, Gleaner Writer



KINGSTON, Jamaica:

Jamaica’s chief justice Zaila McCalla says judges are to exercise their discretion and give reasons for their decisions in the interest of justice and the public.




The comments from the country’s top judge come amid intense public concern that Senior Resident Magistrate Judith Pusey has not given a reason for upholding a no-case submission, freeing ex-junior minister Kern Spencer and a co-accused of corruption charges.



A Judge or Magistrate is not generally obliged to give reasons for any ruling in law.



However, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Llewellyn, has argued that the magistrate made an error of law and further that the Crown is in a dilemma because it is unable to explain to the public why Spencer was freed.



She said there are instances in which judges uphold no case submissions but as a matter of courtesy or gesture to transparency, they give a brief rationale for the decision.



Speaking at a swearing-in ceremony for judges this week, the chief justice called on judges to exercise their discretion.



The DPP said she would have appealed the ruling if the Crown had the right.



Meanwhile, the Chief Justice spoke on the matter of recusal that also surfaced in public discussions of the Kern Spencer trial.



McCalla explained that applications for recusal should be made to the judge or magistrate in question outlining reasons for the request.



In 2010, RM Pusey turned down an application from the prosecution requesting that she remove herself because of comments that would give the impression she is not fair.



There were further calls for the magistrate to recuse herself after the DPP successfully challenged an order to testify as a witness.



The Magistrate had issued a subpoena for the DPP to testify about a meeting she had with the main witness Rodney Chin while he was still an accused in the case.



Llewellyn successfully challenged the order in the Supreme Court but the magistrate took the case to the Appeals Court which ruled that the magistrate did not have the power to subpoena the DPP as a witness in the trial.



The former junior energy minister and his co-accused, Colleen Wright, were on trial since 2008 on corruption and money laundering charges arising from the implementation of the Cuban light bulb project.



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