Mandeville Weekly News

JUSTICE MINISTER PROPOSES MORE INCENTIVES TO CLEAR BACKLOG

Posted by SR (riley) on Feb 03 2017 at 1:15 AM
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While the Criminal Justice (Administration) Act allows persons accused of crimes to plead guilty and give testimony or information in return for a reduced penalty, the offer is seldom taken up by defendants.This is in stark contrast to some jurisdictions across the world, including the United States where up to 90 per cent of their cases are disposed of by way of persons entering guilty pleas in exchange for leniency.

For Justice Minister, Hon. Delroy Chuck, this is the reason the nation’s courts are inundated with cases that should have been disposed of long ago.The Minister said that the plea-bargaining legislation that currently exists is not operating as it should and also is not attractive enough to sway guilty defendants from going to trial.  “There will never be an ease in the heavy backlog of cases in the nation’s courts unless ways are found to solicit more guilty pleas from accused persons,” he said.
 “There are simply too many clear-cut cases that are currently clogging up the courts, with accused persons opting to fight and frustrate the system rather than enter guilty pleas,” the Minister adds.

The Criminal Justice (Administration) Act was introduced in 2006, and amended in 2010.  It allows for a reduction of sentence in exchange for the accused pleading guilty, or providing information.Minister Chuck argues that accused persons see very little value in bringing an early closure to their cases, convincing themselves that a long drawn-out process is the lesser of the evils.  “It has to be clear to all and sundry that unless we take an incentive-laden approach to the table when dealing with accused persons, we will not get them to enter guilty pleas,” he pointed out.

“There has to be meaningful changes to the Criminal Justice (Administration) Act, where plea bargaining can be used, where our judges agree to impose lighter sentences in exchange for guilty pleas, to ease the heavy backlog of court cases,” the Minister said.Minister Chuck noted that defence attorneys are not currently in a position to guarantee their clients that entering a guilty plea will get them a lighter sentence, emphasising that the judge in the case will have to give that assurance.  “There has to be a greater incentive given to an accused for that person to want to enter into a plea-bargaining arrangement.  Once the defence attorney and the prosecutor meet and sign off on a recommended sentence, the accused will want to know that the presiding judge will go along and will not deviate much from the recommendation,” he said.

Minister Chuck argues that it is in everyone’s best interest to have the cases disposed of as expeditiously as possible as well as to have dangerous criminals taken off the streets.  “Getting a lot of these cases off the court dockets will free up the system and enable our judges to focus on the real serious cases,” the Minister said.

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