Justice Minister Hopes Plea Bargaining Will Become a Game Changer for the Criminal Justice System

Photo: Michael Sloley Minister of Justice, the Hon. Delroy Chuck addresses the audience at the Ministry of Justice’s Town Hall Meeting held at St. George’s College Auditorium in Downtown, Kingston on November 2.

Story Highlights

  • Minister of Justice, the Hon. Delroy Chuck, says plea bargaining could become a game changer for the criminal justice system.
  • The legislation provides for a system of plea bargaining for persons who commit crimes. It is intended to give accused persons the opportunity to offer a guilty plea in exchange for a lighter sentence. Persons may also be considered for early parole.
  • He also encouraged persons who have been accused of crimes and know they are guilty, to take advantage of the plea bargaining being offered.

Minister of Justice, the Hon. Delroy Chuck, says plea bargaining could become a game changer for the criminal justice system.

He argued that the initiative may ease some of the pressures of the country’s overburdened justice system.

“The backlog in the court cannot continue. We have to buy into it, because with guilty plea, you save the country an enormous amount of resources. The cost to try a case is enormous,” Mr. Chuck said.

He was speaking at the Ministry’s Town Hall Meeting on Plea Bargaining held at the St. George’s College Auditorium, North Street, Downtown Kingston, on November 2.

The Plea Negotiations and Agreement Act, 2017 was recently passed in the Houses of Parliament.

The legislation provides for a system of plea bargaining for persons who commit crimes. It is intended to give accused persons the opportunity to offer a guilty plea in exchange for a lighter sentence. Persons may also be considered for early parole.

Minister Chuck noted that currently there are over 35,000 cases in the Parish Court and over 2,000 cases in the Circuit Court.

He also encouraged persons who have been accused of crimes and know they are guilty, to take advantage of the plea bargaining being offered.

“If persons who know they are guilty speak out immediately after being accused, then they will not only reduce the burden on the system, but also save the nation millions annually,” Mr. Chuck stated.

“What is more, if the person pleads guilty, he saves the victim and the witnesses the trauma of reliving the experience of what took place. So if we can encourage accused persons [to] accept their wrong doing, plead guilty, save the country time and resources, save the witnesses from reliving the experience, then I think we would have done an enormous service to the victims and the country,” he argued.

In addition, Minister Chuck is encouraging prosecutors to make an offer of reduced sentences to accused persons wanting to plead guilty after completing their files.

“We will be urging prosecutors to act on completed files. We will be urging the police to complete their file very quickly, and… we hope the prosecutors will make the offer and the offer will be at the top of the range and the accused is willing to plead guilty. They will come and there will be basis for a negotiation. After that, the judge will assist both parties in coming to an appropriate sentence,” Mr. Chuck stated.

Meanwhile, Executive Director, Legal Aid Council, Mr. Hugh Faulkner, stressed that plea bargaining is only for those who are guilty and are willing to plead same.

“I must state that plea bargaining is for the person who is accepting responsibility. There are instances when allegations are made and the allegations are false, so the plea bargaining is not for the persons who has been falsely accused,” Mr. Faulkner said.

He also encouraged members of the judiciary to become familiar with the contents of the Plea Negotiations and Agreement Act.

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