Debate on legislation that will grant a limited right of appeal to the prosecution in criminal proceedings in the Parish Court or Circuit Court started in the House of Representatives on May 12.
The Bills, Judicature (Appellate Jurisdiction) (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and the Judicature (Parish Courts) (Amendment) Bill, 2021, were piloted by Justice Minister, Hon. Delroy Chuck.
The Minister said that the law is being amended to grant to the prosecution a right of appeal where there has been a verdict of acquittal in an administration of justice offence; there has been a verdict of acquittal based on a point of law or a point of mixed law and fact that was erroneously upheld by the trial judge; and where the sentence handed down was unduly lenient or manifestly inadequate for the offence, having regard to any applicable sentencing guidelines, or the Court did not have the power to pass the sentence.
“Further, the Bills will allow the prosecutor to refer an acquittal to the Court of Appeal for their opinion on any point of law, any point of mixed law and fact, or where the trial was conducted by a judge sitting without a jury, on any point of fact that arose in the case,” he noted further.
An amendment will be made to the Criminal Justice (Administration) Act to provide an exception to the Rule against Double Jeopardy, which will allow the prosecution, with the written consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), to apply to the Court of Appeal to quash an acquittal and direct a retrial, in certain circumstances.
Minister Chuck said that the Legal Aid Act is also being amended to allow legal aid to be available to a respondent in any criminal appeal.
He noted that certain procedural requirements that will accompany the limited right of appeal by the prosecution will also be provided for, including, among other things, the time limits for when the prosecution may give notice of and serve an application for leave to appeal and proffer an indictment for retrial of the acquitted person.
In addition, the definition of prosecutor will be expanded to take into consideration the other persons who may legally exercise prosecutorial powers.
The definition will include the DPP or any of the attorneys-at-law employed in that Office or an attorney-at-law to whom the DPP has granted a fiat to prosecute the case, a Clerk of the Court, the Integrity Commission’s Director of Corruption Prosecutions, the Director-General of the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA), and a person who has initiated a private prosecution.
The Minister said that the prosecution has no right of appeal against an acquittal that was obtained as a result of actions designed to pervert the course of justice, noting that such actions may take the form of intimidation of witnesses, or destruction or disappearance of material evidence and perjury.
He pointed out that many Caribbean neighbours have already passed legislation that allows the prosecution to have a limited right of appeal.
“Therefore, the amendments will bring us in line with CARICOM and Commonwealth nations such as Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Bermuda, and the United Kingdom. The time has come for Jamaica to amend its laws and provide the prosecutors with a right of appeal,” he said.