Don’t waste time on weak cases, urges judge
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Concerned about the mounting backlog of cases because of challenges getting jurors, Supreme Court judge, Justice Bertram Morrison on Monday urged both defendants and prosecutors to pick their battles carefully in order not to clog the system.
“It is justice for all, but we wait. We prolong in hope and anticipation that the system will somehow forget about the evil that has been done upon another citizen of this country,” he noted wryly of defendants who know they are guilty.
“Equally, for the prosecution, when the case is weak it should not be placed on the list for five years,”” Justice Morrison continued. “I have seen cases languishing on the list for seven years, only to be thrown out after the eighth year. That cannot be justice. That practice must stop,” he urged.
His comments came during the opening of the Hilary Term of the St James Circuit Court as he bemoaned a problem that has plagued the country’s legal system for years: a dearth of citizens willing to serve as jurors.
Justice Morrison noted that several individuals summoned for jury duty showed up on Monday with varying excuses as to why they were unable to serve. Some cited their advanced age, illness, and some frankly said they were unwilling.
“It is intolerable because, as presently constituted, this court cannot function without the jurors. For example, we have 59 murders to deal with, among other matters of sexual offence in nature. It must mean that a lot of these cases are going to have to go forward. It cannot be done in four weeks — it does not require a mathematical genius to see that — so what are we doing? Postponing the problem!” stated an obviously frustrated Justice Morrison.
For her part, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Andrea Martin-Swaby said the court has the prosecution’s full support as efforts will be made to have as many cases as possible cleared up.
“I think it is a testament to the magnitude of work that we have in the parish of St James because, even as we close one circuit and open another, we have an additional 192 cases that we are confronted with,” she noted.
She pointed out that they will have to manage 192 cases in four weeks.
While there are 23 new committals or cases, 169 were traversed from previous sittings.
A breakdown of the cases shows that there are 59 murder cases, 78 for the possession of identity information, two for wounding with intent, one for manslaughter, one for assault, and one for causing grievous bodily harm.
In addition, there are 26 rape cases and 12 offences of sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 years. The remaining sexual offences cases are made up of trafficking in persons, possession of child pornography, buggery, and sexual grooming.
At the end of the Michaelmas Term, some 24 cases were disposed of.
On Monday attorney Dalton Reid, who spoke on behalf of the defence caucus, said support will be given to ensure that the court operates seamlessly.
“We really need the system to work because if the system does not work then there can be no justice,”” stated Reid.