The Star (Jamaica)

Chuck bats for plea bargaining


Justice Minister Delroy Chuck said that plea bargaining will go a far way in reducing the backlog of cases in the country’s courts.

The minister, however, noted that the Plea Negotiatio­ns and Agreements Act, which allowed for discounted sentences in exchange for guilty pleas, has earned “an unnecessar­y bad image”.

There have been calls for the scrapping of legislatio­n that allows persons who plead guilty to various crimes to benefit from a reduction in sentences. Under the Criminal Justice Administra­tion Act, persons who plead guilty to their crimes at the first opportunit­y can get a 50 per cent discount on their sentences.

In defending the need for the legislatio­n, Chuck said that it involves negotiatio­n and agreement in which the accused is invited to plead guilty in considerat­ion of an appropriat­e sentence to be negotiated between the prosecutio­n and defence, and approved by the trial judge.

“In most cases, it involves a lesser sentence than would normally be imposed if the matter had gone to trial and a guilty verdict was found. But in appropriat­e cases, even if the defence attorney seeks a reduced sentence, the judge could still impose the maximum sentence or a sentence that fits the nature and gravity of the crime,” Chuck said.

The minister said that it is taking too long for cases to be tried in the criminal courts, noting that many matters are still taking in excess of five years to be disposed of.

“In most jurisdicti­ons, this would be a breach of the accused person’s constituti­onal right to be tried by an independen­t tribunal within a reasonable time. We need to find additional ways and means to ensure that cases are completed within three years. There is no shortage of courts which was the challenge in previous years but many are underutili­sed,” the justice minister said.

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 ?? FILE ?? Delroy Chuck
FILE Delroy Chuck

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