KINGSTON — Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, has emphasised the need to eliminate preliminary enquiries prior to trials, as the information provided at enquiries is a duplication of statements given to the police.
Mr. Chuck was advocating for passage of the Bill on the Committal Proceedings Act, 2011, on October 4 sitting of the House of Representatives at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown, Kingston. The Minister piloted the Bill on September 21.
If the Bill is given the nod, there would be an end to preliminary enquiries in Resident Magistrate’s Courts. This is expected to improve the administration of justice in the courts, by alleviating or reducing problems related to inordinate delay, high legal costs and the unavailability of witnesses.
“We are wasting good judicial time in going through the 12 and more instances of mention dates, coming to preliminary enquiries, and then having to go to the Supreme Court,” the Minister argued.
He further pointed out that many witnesses, in addition to the burden of having to attend preliminary enquiries repeatedly, when the case is committed to trial, often believe that those enquiries were in fact the trial, “and then having to repeat what they said at the preliminary enquiry."
On suspension of the debate, Minister Chuck gave an undertaking to discuss with Member of Parliament (MP) for Central Kingston, Rev. Ronald Thwaites, his concerns about section 12 of the Bill, which the MP said was too far reaching.
The Jamaica Justice System Reform Taskforce, in its final report presented to the Ministry in June 2007, stated the need for the abolition of preliminary examinations. It also recommended the introduction of an effective charge screening system, which could fulfill the objectives of a preliminary examination, but in a more cost effective way.
Meanwhile, Mr. Chuck assured that a significant number of the Task Force’s other recommendations have been implemented.
The Minister noted that some of these initiatives have not been brought to Parliament, but he would seek to have the relevant reports tabled." A lot is being done…and in due course, I’ll try to get all of these reports to Cabinet,” he stated.
Mr. Chuck noted that these reports include the work of the Restorative Justice Formulation Team, the Dispute Resolution Foundation, the Victims’ Charter and National Child Diversion Policy.
By Alphea Saunders, JIS Reporter