Chief Justice, Hon. Zaila McCalla, says no single group can improve the justice system, and called for for a unified effort to clear the backlog of cases.
She emphasised that everyone has an interest in seeing that the system works properly and if they unite, “we will see a marked improvement in the justice system".
The Chief Justice was speaking at the opening of the Michaelmas Term of the Home Circuit Court, in downtown Kingston, September 17. A total of 588 cases are down for trial during the term.
Justice McCalla also called for improvement in customer service in the courts, especially those in the rural areas.
Meanwhile, President of the Jamaican Bar Association, Ian Wilkinson, said he had seen recent improvements in the justice system, citing the new judicial guidelines or code of conduct and the disclosure protocol for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions as important steps.
He said it is “unfathomable” to see that 340 of the total cases to be brought before the court in this Michelmas session are murder cases. He noted that in the last session approximately only one sixth of the 614 cases were disposed of and unless a concerted effort is made by all, he could not see how a dent can be made in the case load.
Noting that it is going to be a “tough long haul,” Mr. Wilkinson called on his colleagues in the private bar to do their part to tackle the backlog and try to reduce the scourge of crime.
In the meantime, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Lisa Palmer, said this year’s case load represents an 11 per cent increase over 2011. She noted that more cases are being added to the list, which could be a reflection of the state of crime in the country.
However, Ms. Palmer said there is some encouragement as the number of cases disposed of during the Easter term was 103, which represented a 139 per cent increase over the similar period last year. She attributed this increase to the implementation of a Task Force in the DPP's office last year and an increase in the number of ‘guilty pleas’.
The Deputy DPP also cited a lack of persons willing to serve as jurors, as a challenge. She noted that Court 8 was unable to sit for several weeks because of an inability to empanel a jury.
Of the 543 cases that were brought across to the Michaelmas term, 340 are murders; 126 are sexual offences, including rape, carnal abuse and buggery; eight manslaughter cases; 30 wounding with intent; 16 causing grievous bodily harm with intent; three trafficking in persons; eight abductions and two cases of arson among others. Nineteen of the 45 new cases are murder, and 22 are sexual offences, including 10 cases of rape and eight of carnal abuse.
Also in attendance were: Custos of Kingston, Hon. Steadman Fuller and Custos of St. Andrew, Hon. Marigold Harding.