Chief Justice Wants More Doctors to be Trained to Give Evidence in Court


Chief Justice of Jamaica, the Hon. Mrs. Justice Zaila McCalla, has recommended that more medical practitioners be trained to give evidence in court cases.
Speaking at the opening of the Medical Association of Jamaica’s (MAJ) Symposium 2009 yesterday (June 4), at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston, Mrs. Justice McCalla said the ignorance of some doctors regarding court procedures sometimes leads to lengthy delays in the prosecution of cases requiring their expert opinion.
She noted that a major problem is the preparation of medical reports. “There appears to be no such guidelines in our jurisdiction, however, the Medical Association of Jamaica, through lectures and other initiatives, could address this need,” she pointed out.
Section 50 of the Evidence Act makes provision for medical certificates and reports to be admitted into evidence in court without the medical practitioner being called. However, the Chief Justice lamented that in many cases, it still takes “an inordinately long time for medical certificates to be produced when required.”
Other problems include: medical certificates having to be returned for signature by the doctor; hospitals being unable to locate medical files of the complainant; and medical certificates having to be returned for further explanation or correction.
“And, of course, the age-old problem of the doctor’s handwriting being illegible and hence the medical certificate is useless until it has been clarified,” she added.
Mrs. McCalla also sought to assure the doctors present that measures are being put in place to ensure they are not subjected to unnecessarily lengthy cross-examinations. She noted that the introduction of a criminal case management system will see both the prosecution and defence agreeing on certain points in a case beforehand, for example whether a person is dead in the case of murder.
The Chief Justice also reminded the doctors present of the importance of their input in the justice system. “You have far-reaching influence on other groups in which you might come in contact,” she pointed out, while urging them to contemplate on what more they could do to help the “healing of the nation.”
The MAJ symposium will run from June 5 to 7 under the theme: ‘The Impact of Trauma on the Health of Our Nation’. Training with regard to giving medical evidence is expected to be among the areas covered during the symposium.

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