Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, says the Ministry would like to see definitive timelines for various processes in the Courts.
“I believe that no matter in the Parish Courts should extend from filing to completion beyond 24 months, and I expect that 90 per cent of these matters should be completed within 12 months. We are getting there and I hope it is achieved within this fiscal year,” Mr. Chuck said, as he made his contribution to the 2021/22 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on May 4.
“In the Supreme Court, no trial matter should remain there longer than three years and, certainly, 75 per cent of the matters should be completed within two years. Uncontested divorces should be completed within six months and Probate and Administration of Estates should also be completed within four months,” he added.
Mr. Chuck further noted that whilst there have been “enormous improvements in the Courts… we cannot ignore the frustration of litigants and the members of the public when a few cases are highlighted that seem to undermine how well the Court is actually functioning”.
“When bail is granted to individuals charged with murder and other serious offences, some members of the public question how bail could be granted to those individuals. In fact, many of these accused individuals actually continue to commit crimes while on bail,” Mr. Chuck said.
He noted that the Judiciary should be aware that the police are very critical of the decision to grant bail, and perhaps an explanation should be given why bail is granted, so the Prosecution can appeal if necessary.
The Minister added that by the same token, when a decision is refused, an explanation can be given so the defence can appeal.
“Again, when sentences are lenient, or out of the established sentencing range, the public is also alarmed at the inadequacy of the sentence. It was with this in mind that I recently tabled two Bills aimed at giving the Prosecution right of appeal against certain judgments of the court, including appeals against a lenient sentence,” Mr. Chuck said.
“This is a timely and game-changing development, as these amendments will bring us in line with members of the Commonwealth, like Barbados, Bermuda and the United Kingdom, in balancing the interests of justice,” he added.
Additionally, the Legal Reform Department at the Ministry has started working with the Ministries of Government to update relevant penalties to allow for more realistic sentences, in line with the rule of law and international best practices.
These will then be brought to Parliament for consideration and time allowed for the public to weigh in on the proposals.
“At the end of the day, the Executive and the country are looking to the Judiciary to play a significant role in sending the clearest signal to criminals that crime has severe detrimental consequences. This can be accomplished by timely trials, strong pronouncements from the Bench and, in appropriate cases, harsh sentences that send a powerful message and emphatic denunciation of criminal activities,” Mr. Chuck stated.