Chief justice calls for prosecution to be given right to appeal

Observer staff reporter

Thursday, December 13, 2018

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CHIEF Justice Bryan Sykes has echoed long-standing calls for the prosecution to be given the right to appeal, noting that the time has come for it to be implemented in the island.

Over the years, Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn has been advocating for the right to appeal, and for policymakers and the Government to look at amending the law that would allow prosecutors to appeal in matters where the verdict is unfavourable to the Crown.

Speaking at the official opening of the recently expanded Court of Appeal in downtown Kingston yesterday,

He also suggested that the present case management procedure needs to go a step further by also dealing with the admissibility of evidence, instead of during trials, where it takes up time.

“We need to streamline the process where all of those matters are dealt with outside of the trial, so that when the trial commences everybody knows what the exhibits are and what is in and what will be out, and so that the trial can move along smoothly.

“In that process, one may wish to consider whether the Crown should have a right to appeal depending on what the ruling is, and I think the time has come, because I don't think we can continue to have a modern criminal justice system where the Crown does not have the right to appeal, certainly in certain circumstances,” he said.

However, at the same time, the chief justice said he is concerned about the way in which criminal trials are being inefficiently presented and managed.

“Too much time is spent by the prosecution and other prosecutorial agencies in presenting their case,” he said. “We have a case now going on where we're in the third week, and the prosecution is not halfway through its case as yet; and my view is that it's really a consequence of inefficient planning, inefficient use of time, and really not thinking through how the information is going to be managed and presented to the court. I think we need to do some work there.”

Chief Justice Sykes also emphasised that effective utilisation of time is an important component in having a first-class legal system.

“Regardless of the type of facilities that we have and the number of courts that we have, the numbers of judges that we have, everyone has a role to play in making us become efficient and to utilise the courtrooms and judicial time as efficiently as possible,” he said.

According to the chief justice, matters in the system can be dealt with in a considerably shorter period of time, and this, he said, is evident from the appeal case involving Adidja “Vbyz Kartel” Palmer, which took less than 14 days owing to the fact that both the defence and the prosecution had submitted copies of all their arguments.

In the meantime, the chief justice also issued a call for the legislation to be further amended so that appeal cases can be dealt with by a single judge, instead of going before a panel of three judges.

“Regarding the status of procedural appeals, I think that if the legislation is amended now so that a single judge of the Court of Appeal could do it, then it would go a far way in disposing of those appeals quickly,” he said.

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