Attorneys Urged to Utilise Sentence Reduction Day Initiative

Photo: Yhomo Hutchinson Deputy Registrar, Criminal Division of the Supreme Court, Tamsyn Bailey (left); Senior Defence Attorney, Valerie Neita-Robertson, QC; (centre); and Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Andrea Martin-Swaby, in an interview session with the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) on October 13.

Story Highlights

  • Queen’s Counsel, Valerie Neita-Robertson, is encouraging fellow attorneys to utilise the Supreme Court’s Sentence Reduction Day initiative, noting that the reduction of case backlog is favourable to all stakeholders in the justice sector.
  • The Sentence Reduction Day initiative provides an opportunity for accused persons to enter a guilty plea and benefit from a maximum of up to 50 per cent reduction in their sentence, according to the provisions of the Criminal Justice Administration Amendment Act, 2015.
  • The Sentence Reduction Day programme is being implemented by the Criminal Case Management Steering Committee, which has as its mandate the implementation of policies and strategies that are geared towards the administration of justice in a timely manner in all the courts.

Queen’s Counsel, Valerie Neita-Robertson, is encouraging fellow attorneys to utilise the Supreme Court’s Sentence Reduction Day initiative, noting that the reduction of case backlog is favourable to all stakeholders in the justice sector.

“The backlog is not beneficial to any side; defence attorneys are suffering. When you have a case dragging on for 10 years, there is no amount of money to be paid to you to account for that. So, if you can get rid of it early while doing what is in the best interest of your client, then the system, I think, will begin to work a little better,” she said.

The second instalment of the initiative will be available on Thursday, October 19, at the Home Circuit and Gun Court Division of Kingston and St. Andrew and on Friday, October 20, at the St. Catherine Circuit Court.

The Sentence Reduction Day initiative provides an opportunity for accused persons to enter a guilty plea and benefit from a maximum of up to 50 per cent reduction in their sentence, according to the provisions of the Criminal Justice Administration Amendment Act, 2015.

Mrs. Neita-Robertson, in an interview with JIS News, said it is the obligation of all defence attorneys to facilitate an efficient system in the best interest of justice.

“The defence attorney does what is in the best interest of his or her client. If the client is guilty and tells you he is guilty, having indicated that this is his wish, I would really encourage all attorneys [to utilise the Sentence Reduction Days],” she said.

She also urged young attorneys to seek assistance and support from senior counsel, if needed, in order to take advantage of the provisions under the programme.

Mrs. Neita-Robertson further noted that she personally used the initiative in its initial instalment on May 22 this year, from which her clients benefited significantly.

She added that it is also valuable that pleading guilty on the day carries no penalty for the accused, noting that the attorney can get a sentencing indication from the judge ahead of the proceedings.

“Persons in the past Sentence Reduction Day have gotten suspended sentences, because when you take away time served, it comes down to zero; but the accused would still have to pay a penalty for breaking the law, such as probation or suspended sentence,” she said.

For her part, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Andrea Martin-Swaby, said that in addition to the benefit of a reduced case load to the prosecution, victims, complainants and witnesses also benefit from the Sentence Reduction Day initiative.

“Witnesses, complainants and victims benefit by not having to repeatedly relive or revisit the unpleasant circumstances of the case in a trial… and are, therefore, usually happy to not have to go through the process,” she said.

Mrs. Martin-Swaby further noted that a reduced case load also frees up the justice system to adequately handle cases that require the trial process and the use of a jury.

The Sentence Reduction Day programme is being implemented by the Criminal Case Management Steering Committee, which has as its mandate the implementation of policies and strategies that are geared towards the administration of justice in a timely manner in all the courts.

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