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Chuck to pursue legislation to give convicts second chance

BY BALFORD HENRY
Observer senior reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, May 23, 2019

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Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck says his ministry's efforts to speed up the processing of cases before the courts will include encouraging people to admit guilt and eventually seek expungement of the crimes from their police records.

He said that this offers an opportunity for more Jamaicans to get a second chance to make a positive contribution to society.

“Once you expunge the record you have really deleted the crime,” the minister noted.

He said that he will be proposing an amendment to the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Act to allow for a special remission for those who have shown, for an extended period of time, that they have put crime behind them.

“We have to send a signal to the country at large that we have to find ways and means to deal with cases expeditiously. That means even the litigants themselves must try to settle matters that can be settled, without it going to trial,” Chuck also noted.

He stated that mediation is an approach which should be pursued in the process, and that he will urge attorneys and persuade litigants to settle their civil matters through mediation.

“And in criminal cases, I have said and I will repeat ad nauseam that, if you are guilty, plead guilty and beg for mercy: Use plea bargaining to have a reduced sentence,” the minister urged.

Chuck told a post-sectoral press briefing at his ministry yesterday, however, that expungement was not to be taken lightly as there are limits in terms of the length of time since the individual has been released from the penal institution — currently 10-15 years.

He also suggested that the number of offences which can be expunged would also be addressed, and the time limit extended to 20 years in the amendment to the Act.

“Usually, the expungement committee doesn't do this willy nilly. When you look at the file that is building up with lawyers, pastors and everybody sending letters of recommendation asking the committee to reconsider its position or 'please do this', they show oftentimes that they (the convicts) are remorseful and that they want to lead a fairly decent life and put the crime behind them,” Chuck noted.

However, he said that if there is any indication that they have been disorderly, in any way, and have regressed into committing criminal acts, “I don't think that the committee would in fact do so”, he added.

Chuck also noted that his Ministry continues to offer expungement services to individuals who have made a sincere and successful attempt at becoming law-abiding citizens. He said that the objective is to see that they are given an opportunity to “start afresh without being haunted by their past mistakes”.

Chuck also spoke on the issue at the press briefing.

He noted that in 2018/2019, the ministry received 1,915 expungement applications, and 1,046 criminal records were expunged.

“It is my hope that more Jamaicans will be given a second chance to make a positive contribution to society,” he said.


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