THE US Embassy in Kingston has expressed satisfaction with Jamaica's court case disposal rate and said it is looking forward to “continuing the strong partnership” with the island, which has resulted in what Washington described as “historic improvements”.
Pointing out that the courts are now processing three times as many criminal cases as they were a year and a half ago, the US Embassy said the clearance rate now stands at 96 per cent.
“This figure has been steadily growing, from 35 cases per 100 in early 2017, to 57 cases in mid-2017, to 74 cases in late 2017, to 94 cases in early 2018,” the embassy said.
For example, at the Corporate Area Parish Court in Half-Way- Tree, the clearance rate is now 116 per cent, which means that the courthouse staff are clearing more cases than are coming in, the embassy pointed out.
“In other words, they have started making headway on the multi-year backlog of cases.”
Earlier this month, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck told Parliament that the Corporate Area Criminal Court and Westmoreland Parish Court had the highest disposal rates.
“An average of 2,451 new criminal cases are filed across all parishes on a monthly basis, with a total of 14,824 new criminal cases entering the parish courts for the first six months of 2018,” Chuck said, using data in the Chief Justice's Statistics Reports for the Parish Courts covering the period January to June 2018.
Minister Chuck said 11 courts have achieved case clearance rates of more than 90 per cent and have, therefore, attained international standards in this respect, in the second quarter.
He also reported that the overall clearance rate for the second quarter of 2018 was 98 per cent, an improvement of nine percentage points over the first quarter.
The US Embassy pointed out that the assistance provided by the American Government included a series of workshops to familiarise judges, prosecutors, and defence attorneys with the new plea bargain legislation in late 2017 and 2018; the embedding of British prosecutor Francis Burak with the clerks of court at the Half-Way-Tree courthouse for the period November 2017 to November 2019; and funding case flow workshops, conducted by the Canadian High Commission in February this year.
“While all courts have improved their clearance rates over the past year, the courts that received the case flow management training improved at a higher rate than the other courts,” the embassy said.
“One of the objectives of the training, which was provided to six of Jamaica's 13 parish courts, was to sensitise court staff about the role of case progression officers, a position which was recently introduced to the parish courts and, as their title suggests, they are responsible for progressing cases and reducing the number of times cases are postponed,” the embassy added.