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  • The Government will be implementing a raft of initiatives aimed at increasing the rate of completion of criminal cases, including Gun Court matters.
  • This was disclosed by Minister of Justice Senator Mark Golding during the sitting of the Senate on October 24.
  • The Minister was responding to questions posed by Opposition Senator Robert Montague on the state of the Gun Court in Jamaica.

The Government will be implementing a raft of initiatives aimed at increasing the rate of completion of criminal cases, including Gun Court matters.

This was disclosed by Minister of Justice Senator Mark Golding during the sitting of the Senate on October 24.

The Minister was responding to questions posed by Opposition Senator Robert Montague on the state of the Gun Court in Jamaica.

Senator Golding informed that the Criminal Justice (Plea Negotiations and Agreements) Act is to be amended in an effort to put in place a functional plea bargaining system for Jamaica.

“The leadership of the security forces has consistently indicated a need to put a working plea bargaining system in place to tackle Jamaica’s problem of organised crime, but the existing plea bargaining legislation is considered to be unwieldy and has failed to have an impact,” he stated.

He added that a working group was appointed in 2013 to study and come up with practical proposals that will allow for the effective functioning of a plea bargaining system in the Jamaican context.

“A Cabinet submission has been prepared on the basis of their recommendations to seek authorisation for drafting instructions to be issued to amend the existing Act,” Senator Golding said.

In addition, he said that the statutory imposition of mandatory minimum sentences for firearm offences has resulted in a reluctance to plead guilty, even in clear and strong cases, as accused persons facing a minimum sentence of 15 years, often prefer to take their chances with the criminal justice process.

Senator Golding said this has resulted in many cases going to trial that ought to have been resolved early in the process by way of a guilty plea.

“The Criminal Justice Administration (Amendment) Bill and the Judicature (Appellate Jurisdiction) (Amendment) Bill are companion pieces of legislation soon to come to Parliament that will empower judges to impose sentencing discounts for guilty pleas, including where the law imposes a mandatory minimum sentence (as in the case of most firearm offences, non-capital murder, rape and various other sexual offences),” he outlined.

Other initiatives being pursued include the drafting of the Law Reform (Notice of Alibi Evidence) Bill, which will require an accused person to give notice to the prosecution of the intention to rely on alibi as the defence to a criminal charge.

“This will avoid wasting time and resources expended in disproving other possible defences which are in fact irrelevant to the particular case,” Senator Golding said.

He also informed that it is being proposed to intensify the existing project in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, with the assistance of retired Puisne Judges, whereby case files are reviewed with a view to discontinuing cases, which have no real prospect of successful prosecution.

Meanwhile, the law will also be amended to allow Resident Magistrates to proceed with a single trial where the evidence discloses an indictable offence arising from the same series of facts.

“Currently, these offences would have to be tried separately, requiring the duplication of evidence before difference trial courts and wasting court time. A Cabinet Submission has been prepared to seek authorisation for drafting instructions,” Senator Golding said.

Also, the law is to be amended to allow the Circuit Court to try lesser offences along with murder on a single indictment, where they arise from the same series of fact.

Senator Golding said this will eliminate the unnecessary duplication of trials where murder is not proved but other offences are made out on the facts.

There are currently 2,641 active cases before the Gun Courts in Jamaica.