JIS News

The Lay Magistrates Association of Jamaica (LMAJ) says that while there is still more work to be done, significant strides have been made to reduce the backlog of cases in courts at the parish level.

Speaking at a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) ‘Think Tank’ at the agency’s regional office in Montego Bay, St. James, on April 13, Regional Vice-President of the LMAJ, Melvin Harris, said since the association was charged with the responsibility of assisting to ease the heavy caseload and backlog clogging courtrooms across the island, there is now clear evidence that the move has started to bear fruit.

“Now, not only has there been an increase in the things we are now being asked to do but we have also been making significant strides in reducing the number of cases that are on the books. Some of the areas that we are dealing with include drug and children courts, in addition to civil matters,” Mr. Harris said.

“There are certain matters which we have been called on to do that have not been dealt with as yet. For example, there is on the books where justices of the peace should be permitted to deal with certain matters in the traffic court… .  That has not yet come on stream. While we have been making significant strides in reducing case backlog, we can do a lot more if given the opportunity to do so,” he added.

Mr. Harris, in the meantime, is appealing to persons to try and settle disputes amicably, in an effort to spare the courts from further backlogs. He said restorative justice is a tried and proven system that has been working brilliantly in settling matters at the community level.

“Restorative justice has and will always be a means by which we solve some of the problems facing the society. In some places, such as Kingston, it is very active and needs to be utilised more across the parishes. It is also one of the means where we as justices of the peace and some who are trained are able to dispense with some of the problems we see popping up in various communities,” he said.

“What we want to do as lay magistrates is to encourage individuals who are faced with these problems to seek answers and resolutions to those problems via restorative justice,” he added.

The ‘Think Tank’ was held to highlight activities planned for Lay Magistrates Month, which is being observed in April.

They include a church service, a virtual concert, as well as outreach initiatives that will provide assistance to persons affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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