Justice system needs urgent attention
Jamaica needs to give serious attention to the justice system which, Bishop Howard Gregory says, is experiencing an increasing erosion of public confidence that runs the risk of sparking social disorder.
"There is, I believe, an increasing loss of confidence in the justice system, with its serious backlog and long delays, as well as some of the rulings of the lower court in relation to cases brought against the State, and especially those involving relations between the police and citizens, Bishop Gregory said yesterday evening.
He was delivering his charge to Jamaica and the Anglican communion at the opening of the church's 143rd Synod at the St Ann's Bay Parish Church.
In his address themed: 'An Enlivened and Transformed Church for a Preferred Future', Gregory, the Lord Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, said Jamaica has some serious work to do, by way of repentance, if there is to be a renewal and transformation.
"The system of justice needs to become a primary focus of attention," he said. "As a nation we are being called to repentance with a consequent change of action in relation to the blood of our young men and our women and children which is being shed daily in our country by criminal elements, but just as significant in the resolution of domestic disputes."
At the same time, Bishop Gregory was highly critical of members of the security forces who have been involved in fatal shootings.
As such, he urged the Government "to take more decisive action in relation to the shedding of the blood of our young, black men by the agents of the State", adding that the rising rage and anguish cannot be what is offered as success in crime-fighting and in reducing crime and violence.
"It will take more than the best effort of the commissioner of police and the ministers with portfolio responsibilities for security and justice to change the direction in which things are moving," Bishop Gregory said.
"The Government and the parliamentary Opposition must step up to the plate on this matter. In a context in which jungle justice is being used by citizens to deal with crimes committed in their communities, a breakdown in the relationship between the police and citizens, and a loss of confidence in the ability of the court to deliver what appears to be justice for citizens, is a formula for social disorder and disintegration," he added.
Making reference to the case in which a policeman was acquitted of the shooting death of a man in Buckfield, St Ann, and the recent police killing of three men in Petersfield, Westmoreland, that sparked public anger, Bishop Gregory said both cases "may become defining moments for how the people understand the delivery of justice which they can expect from the State, and the protection of the law which they can rely on in going forward".
"It is not enough to simply point to the limitations of financial resources," he said. "We must acknowledge what is amiss, repent of our failure and complicity, and take some creative steps in transforming the present system."