The incidence of serious crimes shows a rise and fall with great upward surges and declines of small proportion. The root cause of this increasingly troublesome situation is the failure of the state to provide a judicial system that dispenses justice in a timely and effective fashion.
For many years now we have been hearing the people's cry for justice in and out of the judicial system. It is an everyday occurrence, often graphically portrayed on nightly television news; and this unrequited plea is resulting in jungle justice in which mobs and individuals, including policemen, settle disputes by taking the law into their own hands.
Justice delayed is justice denied; and justice denied is reason for frustration and anger. There can be little doubt that the Jamaican justice system is in such shambles and that people are fast losing faith in it. The backlog of untried cases is huge, there is a shortage of judges, witnesses are afraid to give evidence, citizens are dodging jury duty and court buildings are in need of repair, staffing and modern equipment. Resources dwindle even as the number of cases entering the system increases.
In response to a worsening state of affairs, the parliamentarians say there is not enough money to fix the problems. Yet our elected representatives, of all stripes, readily contribute more than $300 million per annum in support of a Caribbean Court of Justice which 99 per cent of the people never requested, never approved and will never use.
The vast majority of Jamaicans will never come in contact with either the Privy Council or the CCJ. Their cry is for speed, efficiency and effectiveness at the local seats of justice - from the petty sessions to the Court of Appeal. Until this need is satisfied we may have to be prepared to face the alternative - mob rule and jungle justice. Then we will not merely cry for justice, we will weep for it.