Justice Minister Says Better Use Must Be Made Of The Island’s Courts

Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, says that despite the problems with the court system, better use must be made of the island’s courts and the time spent in them.

“We have to find a way to make optimum use of our courts – for the Judges, the lawyers, the prosecutors, the police, and especially for the litigants and witnesses – and to be courageous in this, knowing that courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. We need not be afraid to try new things if we see where they can make our situation better,” Mr. Chuck asserted.

The Minister was addressing the 2011 graduating class of the Norman Manley Law School, at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, on October 8.

Mr. Chuck said he is not suggesting a 24-hour court system, but pointed out that  at present, courts are utilised an average of less than five hours per day. “Is it possible for us to have a system where we have two shifts operating in the Court – one in the morning and one in the afternoon? Is it possible to start the Court day at 8:00 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. similar to the private and public sector, running until about 12:30 p.m. with a break in between, and then a second shift at 1:30 p.m. to about 5:00 p.m.?” he questioned.

The Minister said this arrangement could enable having two or more panels of Court of Appeal judges sitting each day maximising the rate of disposal of appeal cases and allowing judges more flexibility and efficiency in structuring their days. He added that this could also be implemented for the Supreme Court and the Resident Magistrates’ Courts.

He said this would see judges, lawyers and prosecutors spending less individual time in the courtroom and achieving more collective time in court usage, and work. This would give lawyers more time within the work day to prepare their cases, and judges more time to prepare judgments, the Minister argued.

Mr. Chuck said that this arrangement can be an avenue through which the backlog of court cases are reduced, as well as  open up more space for new lawyers to share in the work of the justice system.

“We need to look at the reality, be pragmatic and dare to try new solutions. I dare say that a better investment for money might be in securing more prosecutors, more Resident Magistrates and more Judges, so that we can fuel a system that allows us more productive usage of our time and time in our court buildings, than it might be to build more structures. Investment in the human capital might more valuable,” he emphasised.

Meanwhile, he informed that under the justice reform programme, the government is seeking to build more courts and court rooms. “We have launched a massive Justice Square project (in downtown Kingston). I want to thank my colleague Senator, Dorothy Lightbourne (former Minister of Justice), who fought to see the project get off the ground. A few weeks ago, I opened a Courthouse in Lucea, Hanover, that will serve the Family Court – a state of the art courthouse,” he told the graduates.

Mr. Chuck said that despite the need for repairs and equipment for a number of the island’s courts, he was inviting young lawyers to enter the discussion on how better use can be made of the significant resources that have been invested in the courts and are available.