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Justice minister wants cases tried in timely manner

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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ST JAMES, Jamaica (JIS) — Minister of Justice, Delroy Chuck, says all stakeholders in the justice system have a duty to reflect on their role as they seek to improve both their performance and input in the delivery of justice.

Addressing the Jamaican Bar Association's annual conference at the Half Moon Hotel in Rose Hall, St. James, on November 18, Chuck said it is important to have cases tried and judgements rendered in a timely manner, adding that the people of the country expect and deserve nothing less.

“Six months is a reasonable time within which judgements should be delivered. Indeed, the Jamaica Judicial Conduct Guidelines (2014), which sets out the ethical guidance for judges, recommends three months as the period within which judgement should be delivered. It seems obvious and highly desirable that judgements should be delivered promptly,” Chuck said.

He argued that for the judge, after a trial, the material is fresh in his or her mind, and delays dim the memories of the arguments made at trial.

“Prolonged delays, in my opinion, affect the accuracy and judgement of witnesses' demeanour and, thus, the final decision,” the minister argued.

“I think it is highly desirable for judges to deliver oral judgements within days of the completion of trials and, if necessary, an edited and written judgement within weeks,” he added.

Chuck said that in complex cases, more time may be needed for the judges to read and digest the many cases usually relied on at trial, adding that greater reliance on technology and the requirement for detailed arguments delivered electronically, should help in this process.

“Judges could also insist that trial attorneys provide written arguments and relevant passages from cases they quote during the trial. Perhaps if judges demand from the attorneys better particulars and written submissions, it would become easier to deliver judgements,” he reasoned. The minister said the present situation could not continue, with litigants having to wait years for the trials, as it is “simply frustrating and grossly disappointing for them to wait months and years to have judgements delivered”.

“At the end of 2015, there were 311 Supreme Court matters with outstanding judgements. I hope the information for 2016 and 2017 will show significant reductions,” Chuck said.

The Minister noted that other jurisdictions have enacted legislation to determine time standards and other judicial functions, going as far as withholding salary and pension, to get judgements delivered.

“I honestly do not wish to see Jamaica go there. I shall continue to use moral suasion to urge the timely delivery of judgements, and hope that I will see less complaint letters coming across my desk on a daily basis,” Chuck added.

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