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The Criminal Justice (Plea Negotiations and Agreements) Act 2005, which seeks to provide for the implementation of a structured plea-bargaining process in the country’s justice system, was approved at yesterday’s (Nov. 2) sitting of the House of Representatives.
The Bill, which was approved after several amendments, will allow accused persons to plead guilty to a charge on the understanding that he/she will be convicted of a lesser offence, or will be given a lighter sentence in return for a negotiated arrangement, or by virtue of a negotiated arrangement with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) or his officers.
National Security Minister, Peter Phillips, who piloted the legislation, explained that the process would serve to enhance the course of justice, by providing information that would solve crimes and lead to the conviction of criminal masterminds.
“It will facilitate us in being able to get from the ‘sprat’, information that can convict the ‘kingfish’ of crime for serious offences,” he stated, noting that criminals often escaped the reach of the law “because of the difficulties of accumulating evidence as to their involvement.”
“We hope that this bit of legislation will facilitate the accumulation of that evidence and allow us to focus the search light of the law enforcement agencies more clearly and directly on those who are the masterminds of criminal activities,” he added.
Member of Parliament for North Eastern St. Andrew, Delroy Chuck in supporting the legislation, expressed the hope that attorneys would encourage their clients to enter into plea negotiations “so that the time of the court can be saved as in many cases accused persons are wasting the time of the court.”
The Opposition Member pointed out that in instances where accused persons came before the court and the evidence was overwhelming against them, “it is in their interest to seek the mercy of the court and what we are saying if crown counsel and defence counsel can negotiate and present a proper agreement to the judge and the judge accepts, it will go a far way to reduce the backlog of criminal cases in the court.”
The Criminal Justice (Plea Negotiations and Agreements) Act 2005 was presented in the House of Representatives by way of a report from a Joint Select Committee that was established in March earlier this year. The Committee was comprised of members drawn from the House as well as the Senate.