Tough going at under-resourced DPP
By Alicia Dunkley-Willis Observer senior reporter dunkleya@jamaicaobserver
Increased workload and resource constraints are being blamed for the "perceived" lags in the handing down of rulings by the Paula Llewellyn-led Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Both the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) and rights group, Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) have complained of inordinate delays on the part of the DPP. The matter came up recently before the Joint Select Committee of Parliament charged with reviewing the INDECOM Act at Gordon House in Kingston.
"While we appreciate the concerns, it is our considered view that whatever may be perceived as delay must be placed and understood within the context of the non-delegable responsibilities, realities and challenges of the Office," Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Sanchia-Gaye Burrell responded to queries.
She said such an understanding would serve to shed light on any discussion that was likely to lead to the conclusion that the Office was inefficient in its operations or without regard to the importance of the timely delivery of justice.
Burrell took pains to point out that the office not only institutes, takes over and terminates prosecutions in all Jamaican courts but also conducts appellate work flowing from prosecutions. Furthermore Burrell said the Office was also directly tasked with responsibilities under the Proceeds of Crime Act, the Extradition Act, the Terrorism Prevention Act and the Mutual Assistance (Criminal Matters) Act which all involve court attendance and interaction with local and international partners.
Additionally, assistance was widely provided to: the Clerks of Courts in the Magistrates Court, the Jamaica Constabulary Force, ministries, government departments, statutory bodies and the general public in offering legal guidance on criminal matters and providing general information on the criminal justice system. All these functions were done with a staff of 40 crown prosecutors who prosecute in all courts at various levels across the 14 parishes.
"Given the workload we are now faced with and given the increased workload, based upon my director's assessment the office could function much better with an additional 10 prosecutors," she told the Committee. Burrell said "...the kind of volumes we struggle with puts us in a position where we have to prioritise...over what we go before the Courts with".
But despite the resources challenges, Burrell said, the Office of the DPP remained committed to providing timely administration of justice at the highest professional standard. For example, there are some 579 files before the Home Circuit Court; 1,890 before the High Court Division of the Gun Court; 226 before the Western Regional Gun Court; 1,070 before the Collective Rural Circuits and an average six on a weekly basis before the Court of Appeal.
Last year of the 279 files received for ruling 302 were done and remitted. Between January and September this year of the 206 that were received 190 have been ruled on. Since 2010 the office had dealt with some 37 matters from INDECOM for which recommendations for prosecutions had been made for 14.