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Less than 40% of cases closed by Public Defender's office over six-year period

Published:Wednesday | April 16, 2014 | 7:35 PM

Jovan Johnson, Gleaner Writer

KINGSTON, Jamaica:

Newly installed acting Public Defender, Matondo Mukulu, says it is shocking and regrettable that the Office of the Public Defender disposed of less than half the number of cases it opened over a six-year period.

He says Jamaicans have a justifiable reason for not being pleased with the services of the office in recent times.

In an interview with the Gleaner/Power 106 News Centre, the acting public defender disclosed that 5,376 cases were opened for the period 2007 to 2013, but only 1,937 were closed.

The majority of the cases related to pension issues and claims against the security forces.

The period highlighted was presided over by recently retired Public Defender Earl Witter.

Mukulu says Witter has to accept responsibility for the failures given that he was in charge.

He says despite major resource problems, more could have been done if the legal powers of the office were used more frequently and efficiently.

For example, he says the office has statutory powers which could have been used to force agencies of the state to respond to summons issued by the Public Defender’s Office.

In relation to the backlog of cases, the acting head says $281,000 has been set aside to fund a process to reduce the backlog.

Mukulu says four interns have been identified to complete the process over a 23-day period.

Mukulu, who is a public law specialist, became acting Public Defender two months after he started working with the office.

Witter demitted office on April 6.

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