Justice Minister Encourages More Guilty Pleas

Photo: Michael Sloley Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck (right), is in discussion with Custodes for Kingston and St. Andrew, Hon. Steadman Fuller, and Hon. Dr. Patricia Dunwell, respectively. Occasion was the commissioning ceremony for 84 Justices of the Peace (JPs) for St. Andrew held on January 15 at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston.

Story Highlights

  • Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, is urging persons who have committed crimes to offer guilty pleas where the evidence against them is of such that they are unlikely to mount a successful defence.
  • “Once the cases against the accused are strong, I am going to call on accused persons, through their attorneys-at-law, to take responsibility,” he noted.
  • Changes are to be made to the Criminal Justice (Plea Negotiations and Agreement) Act, which allows persons accused of crimes to plead guilty and give testimony or information in return for a reduced penalty.

Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, is urging persons who have committed crimes to offer guilty pleas where the evidence against them is of such that they are unlikely to mount a successful defence.

He said that by pleading guilty, their sentences could be reduced and there is speedier disposal of the case, which helps to reduce the backlog in the courts.

Minister Chuck said he had to give such advice to his clients while practising as a defence lawyer.

“Once the cases against the accused are strong, I am going to call on accused persons, through their attorneys-at-law, to take responsibility,” he noted.

Minister Chuck was addressing a commissioning ceremony for 84 Justices of the Peace (JPs) for the parish of St. Andrew held on January 15 at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston.

He said he will be encouraging the legal community to assist persons in obtaining reduced penalties by admitting to their guilt, while also raising public awareness about the benefits of entering guilty pleas.

Changes are to be made to the Criminal Justice (Plea Negotiations and Agreement) Act, which allows persons accused of crimes to plead guilty and give testimony or information in return for a reduced penalty.

The amendments will, among other things, allow for the defence counsel to be part of the plea-bargaining process and to negotiate with the prosecutor and judge regarding the sentence to be imposed.

The objectives are to make the legislation more effective and to speed up the pace at which justice is delivered.

“Show contrition now, and when the plea bargaining bill, which I am trying to fast-track, comes out, utilise it and get the benefit, if any, of pleading guilty,” Minister Chuck urged.

The Minister, in the meantime, called on the new JPs to encourage other persons of integrity to come forward to serve their communities in a similar capacity.

Custos of St. Andrew, Hon. Dr. Patricia Dunwell, encouraged the new JPs to work with citizens, in the areas that they serve, to tackle the various challenges faced.

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