By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A STUDY of more than three dozen delayed cases in 2014 provides insight on why matters are not going to trial in a timely manner, according to Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson.
During the opening of the Legal Year at the Supreme Court, she gave a report to outgoing Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett on how delayed trials aided in “severely maligning our justice system”.
“In 2012,” she said, “we identified four ‘escape routes’ that prevented matters coming to trial in a timely manner; unavailability of transcripts, inability to empanel juries, calendaring conflicts and lack of defence counsel.”
“In fact, of the 43 delayed trials, we’ve studied in the past year to determine the key factors contributing to the problem, we’ve been able to ascertain that 47 per cent did not proceed because of the inability to empanel a jury; 21 per cent did not proceed because the virtual complainant refused to pursue the matter; 16 per cent did not proceed because defence counsel was not available to appear in court; and another 16 per cent did not proceed because the defendant was unable to secure counsel.
“It is often said that awareness is the first step to recovery – and this is most certainly the case in relation to the primary causes of trial delays. So, while identifying these causes does not in and of itself solve our problem, it is fair to say that the deep understanding we now have of this challenge will allow us to develop effective policies to address it.”
The government has promised new criminal courts as a way to tackle the court backlog, which contributes to persons being granted bail while awaiting trial.
Mrs Maynard Gibson, QC, expects the ten criminal courts to be hearing matters by March.
At the 2014 Legal Year opening, Sir Michael said that any increase in the number of criminal courts would require more persons to serve as jurors. He added that potential jurors would find that judges will be less inclined to excuse them from jury duty as judges have done in the past.