The Honourable House is asked to note that Cabinet has approved the tabling of the Chief Justice’s Statistics Reports for the Supreme Court Easter Term 2018 which covers the period April-July 2018.
Members will recall that last month, the Chief Justice’s Statistics Reports for the Parish Courts for the period January-June, 2018 were tabled in this Honourable House, and following on the initiative we introduced last year, the second set of reports are now being tabled for the Supreme Court.
MS, this effort is being made in order to increase transparency in the operations, accountability and performance of the Courts.
MS, I must emphasise how important it is to continue to apprise this House of the regular reports being produced in the Court system and the movement of cases in the Supreme Court.
Improvements in Administration of Cases
- The Easter Term Report will show that even though there have been some improvement, there is a far way to go. In particular, there are more new matters entering the Courts than those being completed, which means the backlog will persist.
- A total of 4274 new cases entered the Supreme Court across all Divisions during the Term while 3337 cases were completed.
- The High Court Civil and Matrimonial Divisions accounted for the largest number of new cases, with 1571 and 1366 respectively.
- The Home Circuit (Criminal) Division was among the lowest with 148 cases and the Revenue Division with 3 new cases. This particular data shows more than just reduction in cases, but MS, it may also be an indication of the downward trend in crime the Country has been experiencing. We should look at the correlation.
- The Probate and Matrimonial Division accounted for the largest number of cases disposed of, together accounting for 68% of all cases completed. The total number of new cases filed was 23.71% more than the previous term.
MS, I am aware that the Chief Justice has implemented a number of procedures and standards in order to improve the efficiency of the Courts. Two critical areas of focus for the Chief Justice are Trial Date Certainty and Case Clearance Rates.
TRIAL DATE CERTAINTY
- Trial date or hearing date certainty is the proportion of dates which are set for trial or hearing which proceed without adjournment. The international standard for this measure is between 92% and 100% and the Chief Justice has set a target of 95%.
- The hearing date certainty for the Easter Term ranges from an approximate low of 55.93% in the Home Circuit Court where serious criminal matters are tried to a high of approximately 91.73% in the Commercial Division.
- In order to achieve trial date certainty, less cases are being set for trial on each date. In the short to medium term, this means that matters are being set for dates further ahead, however this initiative has been introduced to ensure that matters which are set for trial actually proceed or have a greater likelihood of going ahead.
- While there has been some marginal improvement in the Easter Term overall, most Divisions of the Supreme Court continue to encounter severe challenges with the rate of strict adherence to dates set for hearing or trial due to the high incidence of adjournments. It is expected however, that over time, the measures introduced will address this issue.
CASE CLEARANCE RATES
- The case clearance rate speaks to the ratio of incoming to outgoing cases or new cases filed to cases disposed, regardless of when the disposed cases originated. The clearance rate can therefore exceed 100% and needs to be greater than 100% in order to reduce the backlog in the Courts and prevent new cases from going into backlog. The international benchmark for case clearance rates is an average of 90%-110% annually.
- The case clearance rate for the Easter Term was approximately 78%, a marked improvement of over 30% when compared to the previous Term as well as the Annual clearance rates for 2017.
- The Chief Justice has set a target of 130-140% in order to reduce the backlog of cases in the Courts.
- Four of the Divisions of the Supreme Court have met the international standard of 90%. These are the Matrimonial Division (104%), Probate (106%), Gun Court (111.39%), and the Home Circuit Court (93.24%) which is exceeding the 90% for the first time in at least two and a half years.
- MS, from this data, it is to be noted that the Home Circuit Court was the most improved Division with an increase of roughly 57 percentage points when compared to the previous Term.
- The overall statistics on the case clearance rate gives profound insights into potential case flow and backlog across the Divisions of the Supreme Court.
ALTERNATIVE METHODS FOR RESOLVING CASES
MS, my vision includes the creation of a modern and efficient system where justice is delivered in a timely manner through the optimal use of resources. To this end MS, I wish to emphasise to users of the Court the need for support of the Mediation process in civil matters as well as the use of Plea Bargaining in criminal cases.
Making use of these alternative avenues can assist to facilitate the expeditious completion of cases. Within the next 5 years, we need to be at a point where the court system is completing more cases than those entering the system each week, each month and each year.
MS, the Ministry of Justice continues to work closely with the Chief Justice to provide the necessary resources, facilities and personnel to improve the delivery of justice in the courts. A world class justice system is the goal of Chief Justice Sykes, a goal that is fully supported by this Government and which I know this Parliament will endorse.