The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) disposed of more than 1,200 cases across the various circuit and gun courts islandwide during the last fiscal year.
This was disclosed by Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, who said this adds to the Office’s “excellent track record of delivering effective and just prosecutions in criminal proceedings”.
“Over the past fiscal year, the ODPP contributed significantly to the Ministry’s mandate of protecting the constitutional rights and freedoms of our citizens,” Mr. Chuck said, while making his contribution to the 2021/22 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (May 4).
Of note, the Justice Minister pointed out that in November 2020, the ODPP partnered with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to launch a training video, entitled ‘Digital Policing Criminal Investigations in the Technological Era’, which explores the three investigative tools available to the police under the Cybercrimes Act.
“This training tool will assist them to gather computer material for any criminal offence and enhance their capacity to use their investigative powers under the Act,” he said.
Mr. Chuck noted, as well, that the ODPP and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) are working closely to ensure that cases are dealt with expeditiously.
“I would like to thank the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) for providing the justice system with more funding to support and strengthen our prosecutorial services,” he said.
In the meantime, the Justice Minister called on the ODPP to address the issue of plea agreement and negotiations, which he says are not being fully utilised. “I am urging prosecutors to give more attention to plea bargaining to reduce the backlogs in the courts,” he said.
“The truth of the matter is that once a file is completed and ready for trial, as is the practice in the United States where some 90 per cent of cases are completed by plea bargaining, the prosecution should engage defence attorneys to bargain the completion of the case by a lesser charge and/or a lower sentence. Naturally, for serious matters, the sentence has to be within the normal range and at the higher level, taking note that both charge and sentence would have to be approved by the Presiding Judge,” he said.
Turning to the matter of sentencing, Mr. Chuck said he has “heard the cry of our people,” that some of the sentences being imposed for certain offences are “mere slaps on the wrists of criminal offenders,” given the serious nature of their crimes.
“However, I strongly believe that after a guilty verdict, there should be a sentence hearing where the sentencing judge hears presentations from both the prosecution and defence attorneys before imposing the sentence,” he said.
Mr. Chuck stressed that regrettably, in most cases, only the defence attorneys make a plea, but he is of the belief that the concerns and feelings of the victims and the families of the victims should also be taken into consideration by the trial judge before the sentence is imposed.