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Minister says judicial reform key priority in crime fight

‘Culture of adjournment has infected system, costing country millions of dollars’

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, July 19, 2012    

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SECURITY Minister Peter Bunting says that reforming the judicial system is the key priority in fighting crime, rather than the passage of more legislation.

Bunting, in his sectoral debate presentation in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, said that is the position of his ministry's 2012 National Security Policy (NSP), which is still being developed.

"The 2012 NSP pointed out that the judicial system is currently the weakest link in the national system of law enforcement and criminal justice," the minister told the House.

The minister, pointing to the huge backlog of cases in the court, said "serious crimes take years to be settled, violent criminals are granted bail, evidence is compromised, witnesses are murdered and the criminals are free to continue to enjoy their criminal profits".

He added: "A culture of adjournment has infected our judicial system, which is costing the state millions of dollars, while also punishing the victims and witnesses in criminal cases. Lawyers frequently delay legal proceedings on spurious grounds, with the acquiescence of some judges. Reforming the judicial system is really the key priority rather than the passage of more legislation," the minister said.

He said that the Administration has been actively developing a number of pieces of legislation to strengthen crime-fighting capabilities. However, in an obvious response to the Opposition's spokesman on national security Delroy Chuck's demands for the tabling of a number of Crime Bills left over from 2011, he said that those Bills are currently being reviewed.

"While we are guided by the pressing demand to bring legislation to Parliament, we have taken a deliberate decision to rigorously examine and properly review Bills before they are introduced to Parliament, in order to ensure that they are sufficiently robust to protect our citizens," he said.

He said, however, that the ministry has prioritised three pieces of legislation it is hoping to bring before Parliament by the end of this financial year. They are the Anti-Gang legislation; the DNA legislation; and the Act to establish the Police Management Authority.

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