JIS News

The government is preparing to take the plea bargaining legislation to Parliament by the end of the month, which it is hoped, will put a significant dent in the organised crime network.
Information Minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman, who made the announcement at Monday’s (Feb. 7) post Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, said that the executive body had given its approval for the tabling of the Criminal Justice (Plea Negotiations and Agreements) Bill.
He noted that the introduction of plea bargaining legislation was timely and relevant, as in cases involving organised crime, the perpetrators were frequently apprehended, while the masterminds were left unidentified. In instances when they were identified, the Minister pointed out further, a lack of evidence hindered any likely prosecution.
On account of these factors, the Minister said “serious problems arise as a result of the vast number of criminal prosecutions and the length of time to bring them to conclusion.”
He explained that the plea bargaining bill “provides the Director of Prosecutions (DPP) or any person authorised by the DPP, on one hand, and the accused person on the other hand, through his attorney at law, to negotiate and enter into a plea agreement.”
“Under the agreement,” Minister Whiteman continued, “the accused undertakes to plead guilty to a specified charge, and the DPP may, as the circumstances require, agree to recommend to the judge or magistrate that the original charge or another charge be withdrawn or discontinued.”
He pointed out that the Bill also allowed persons accused of a criminal offence to be offered a second option, noting that, the “accused [can] plead to a lesser offence whether included or not than that which is charged.”
While the plea bargaining agreement would allow for concessions to the charges made against accused persons, Minister Whiteman hastened to note that the final decision rested with the judiciary, and judges could opt to accept or deny such agreements.
“The point must be made that in all cases, it is the judge or magistrate who decides on the sentence but clearly, it is possible for the prosecuting attorney, the DPP, or representative to recommend the charge and that some consideration be given based on the offence to which the accused admits guilt,” Minister Whiteman stated.

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