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4,274 new cases entered Supreme Court for Easter term

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Minister of Justice, Delroy Chuck, is reporting that a total of 4,274 new cases entered the Supreme Court across all divisions for Easter term 2018, while 3,337 cases were completed.

He said that the High Court Civil and Matrimonial divisions accounted for the largest number of new cases, with 1,571 and 1,366 respectively.

Chuck was speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, where he tabled the Chief Justice's Statistics Reports for the Supreme Court Easter Term, which covers the period April-July 2018.

He said the report shows that among the divisions with the lowest number of cases were Home Circuit (Criminal) with 148 and Revenue with three new cases.

“This particular data shows more than just reduction in cases, but it may also be an indication of the downward trend in crime that the country has been experiencing. We should look at the correlation,” the justice minister said.

The Probate and Matrimonial Divisions accounted for the largest number of cases disposed of, together accounting for 68 per cent of all cases completed. The total number of new cases filed was 23.71 per cent more than the previous term.

Chuck informed 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 are trial date certainty and case clearance rates.

The justice minister explained that trial date or hearing date certainty is the proportion of dates that are set for trial or hearing and which proceed without adjournment.

He noted that the international standard for this measure is between 92 and 100 per cent, and the Chief Justice has set a target of 95 per cent.

The trial date certainty for the Easter Term ranges from an approximate low of 55.93 per cent in the Home Circuit Court, where serious criminal matters are tried, to a high of approximately 91.73 per cent in the Commercial Division.

“In order to achieve trial date certainty, fewer 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. This initiative has been introduced to ensure that matters which are set for trial actually proceed or have a greater likelihood of going ahead,” Chuck said.

He noted that 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,” Chuck said.

Regarding case clearance rate, the justice minister explained that this speaks to the ratio of incoming to outgoing cases or new cases filed, as against cases disposed, regardless of when the disposed cases originated.

The international benchmark for case clearance rates is an average of 90 per cent to 110 per cent annually, and the chief justice has set a target of 130-140 per cent in order to reduce the backlog of cases.

Chuck said that the case clearance rate for the Easter Term was approximately 78 per cent, which is a marked improvement of over 30 per cent when compared to the previous term as well as the annual clearance rates for 2017.

He noted that four divisions – Matrimonial (104 per cent), Probate (106 per cent), Gun Court (111.39 per cent), and the Home Circuit Court (93.24 per cent) exceeded the 90 per cent international standard for the first time in at least two and a half years.

“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 give profound insights into potential case flow and backlog across the divisions of the Supreme Court,” Chuck said.

He said that the ministry 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.

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