Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, says that during the last fiscal year the High Courts began hearing matters electronically.
Making his contribution to the 2021/22 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on May 4, he informed that all hearings from the Court of Appeal are now conducted remotely using video and teleconferencing, and at the Supreme Court, bail hearings and mention matters were moved into the virtual space.
“This allowed for adherence to the necessary distancing protocols and resulted in greater convenience for court users and more efficient use of court resources,” Mr. Chuck said.
Regarding performance statistics for the year, Mr. Chuck noted that in the Court of Appeal, approximately 68 per cent of judgments were delivered within six months of being reserved.
“The clearance rate in that Court is 81 per cent – an increase of 11 per cent over 2019 – that is, 81 cases for every 100 reserved,” Mr. Chuck said.
Also, in 2020, the Supreme Court delivered 234 judgments for every 100 reserved.
“If the trajectory holds with current trends, during this fiscal year, the Supreme Court is expected to deliver one and a half times the number of judgments being reserved, and by the end of this fiscal year, it is expected that over 90 per cent of judgments outstanding will be current. We project that no more than 10 per cent of judgments will be outstanding for more than six months,” Mr. Chuck said.
He noted that based on current trends, by the end of the 2021/2022 fiscal year, upwards of 75 per cent of judgments will be delivered within six months.
“There is progress, but the norm should be for judgments to be delivered within six months. It should only be in exceptional cases that judgments should be delayed beyond six months,” the Minister stated.
Mr. Chuck also addressed the matter of net case backlog, that is, the proportion of active cases that are more than two years old.
He said this has been a continuous source of discontent and its reduction is one of the strategic objectives for the Justice Ministry.
“I know the Chief Justice and the Judiciary have paid particular attention to this matter and they have been making impressive strides in this regard,” Mr. Chuck said.
Meanwhile, the Gun Court is expected to be current with its active cases by December 2021, and by the end of the current fiscal year, less than 10 per cent of active cases in the Civil Division of the Parish Courts will be in backlog.
“Since 2016, when we began collecting data, 83.77 per cent of criminal cases were disposed of under 12 months. Approximately 88 per cent of cases were disposed in under 24 months and approximately 12 per cent in more than 24 months,” Mr. Chuck said.
“In 2020, the overall clearance rate for criminal cases in the Parish Courts was 96.47 per cent. Seven of 13 Parish Courts had a clearance rate of more than 90 per cent and the hearing date certainty was 84 per cent. This means that over 95 per cent of cases will be resolved in a timely manner,” he added.
In addition, the overall net case backlog for the Parish Courts is now under 2.64 per cent, placing the country well within the international best practice guideline of under five per cent.
“This is the best position the Parish Courts have been in, in recorded history. The Home Circuit Court has seen a clearance rate of over 70 per cent during the last two years. This means that matters are moving faster in the Home Circuit Court than in previous years,” Mr. Chuck said.