The unan­swered cry for jus­tice

Jamaica Gleaner - - @ISSUE -

FR U S T R AT I O N WITH Ja­maica’s sloth­ful jus­tice sys­tem is creating un­ease for mem­bers of the so­ci­ety be­cause it helps un­der­mine the pro­vi­sion of due process and the con­cept that all are equal un­der the law.

From time to time, this sim­mer­ing frus­tra­tion comes to the boil. It hap­pened again this week when rel­a­tives of a 2011 gun­shot vic­tim took to so­cial me­dia to air their an­noy­ance at the pace of the trial. They were rep­ri­manded by the pre­sid­ing Supreme Court judge.

With the help of so­cial me­dia, de­fen­dants and sym­pa­this­ers can pretty much broad­cast their ill feel­ings in an un­fil­tered man­ner. It is a 21st-cen­tury phe­nom­e­non that grants peo­ple a plat­form to make their feel­ings heard. Some­times, these so­cial me­dia rants are un­fair, and even dan­ger­ous, but they al­low an ag­grieved party to get a raft of re­sponses from a global com­mu­nity.

KINDS OF JUS­TICE

There is a per­sis­tent per­cep­tion that there are two kinds of jus­tice sys­tems in Ja­maica: one for the rich and the other for the poor. It is of­ten said that the rich, who can af­ford to pay huge le­gal fees to high-pro­file lawyers, will al­ways fare bet­ter than the poor, who rely on court-ap­pointed lawyers.

Ja­maica boasts an in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary, with the high­est court of the land be­ing the Court of Ap­peal. How­ever, pub­lic con­fi­dence in the jus­tice sys­tem has taken a bat­ter­ing be­cause of long de­lays in de­cid­ing cases. Jus­tice is de­layed in some cases for more than 20 years. For ex­am­ple, the Cash Plus case in­volv­ing the al­leged fraud com­mit­ted on thou­sands of Ja­maicans has been go­ing on for nearly a decade, with no res­o­lu­tion in sight.

Even though Ja­maicans are gen­er­ally fine with the idea of ‘Ja­maica time’, and the ‘no-prob­lem’ syn­drome, when it comes to set­tling dis­putes and get­ting re­dress, they de­cide that the cul­ture of de­lay is un­ac­cept­able and de­mand ef­fi­ciency. Ideally, peo­ple want a sys­tem that func­tions speed­ily and re­li­ably.

STAG­GER­ING BACK­LOG

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Del­roy Chuck, who has prac­tised in the courts, ap­pre­ci­ates that the stag­ger­ing back­log is an im­ped­i­ment to jus­tice be­ing served. He has said re­peat­edly that he is fo­cused on fix­ing the sys­tem, with the ob­jec­tive that crim­i­nal cases be cleared up in the Parish Court within 18 months and in the high court within two years.

Even with the in­tro­duc­tion of me­di­a­tion to pro­mote dis­pute res­o­lu­tion and other pro­cesses to ease the caseload of judges, there are so many other fac­tors that af­fect the move­ment of cases through the court, and this is what so­ci­ety wants to be fixed.

From all in­di­ca­tions, the de­lays are cre­ated by col­lec­tive in­ef­fi­cien­cies from the point of in­ves­ti­ga­tion to trial, for along the way, there are many hitches to do with pros­e­cu­tor pro­cesses, in­com­plete po­lice files, lo­ca­tion of wit­nesses, de­lays de­manded by de­fence at­tor­neys, and the dif­fi­cul­ties en­coun­tered in em­pan­elling ju­ries.

The in­dig­na­tion of the pub­lic de­mands that Ja­maica should no longer tip­toe around this prob­lem. Gi­ant leaps are ex­pected.

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