Right Steps & Poui Trees


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Minister Chuck & the INDECOM Debate

PBCJ Sitting of House July 21 2020 - Minister ChuckIn Parliament on Tuesday (July 21, 2020), Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck opened the debate on his motion to amend the Independent Commission of Investigations Act, 2010. In a presentation lasting less than ten minutes, he laid out the government’s position regarding the proposed amendments and the process to be followed to get there. No-one else spoke in the debate on Tuesday. Minister Chuck ended his statement saying that it was the intention that the debate should be concluded next week:

“Mr Speaker, I now ask for a suspension of the debate and hope that other Parliamentarians will see it appropriate to make their contributions next week when we hope to close the debate.”

I wonder who will speak next week and for how many minutes.

As Minister Chuck has indicated before, the Government is asking the Members of the House to support all the recommendations included in the 2015 report of the Joint Select Committee that reviewed the INDECOM Act, except the recommendation to give INDECOM the power to prosecute. JSC INDECOM Review power to prosecute

When Minister Chuck spoke about this recommendation on Tuesday,  he added “And I dare say, Mr Speaker, I was one of the strongest proponents of that view. ” The view that INDECOM needed the power to prosecute.

Minister Chuck’s change in position seems to be based primarily on the increased number of prosecutors at the Office of the DPP. He spoke generally about the increased numbers, and referred to an existing MOU between the Office of the DPP and INDECOM:

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that a MOU was arrived at in March 2018 between the ODPP and INDECOM whereby, among other things, two prosecutors were assigned specifically to liaise directly with and treat with INDECOM matters.  Indeed, if more prosecutors are needed to deal with INDECOM matters in a timely manner, I am assured by the DPP that one or more prosecutors can be so assigned.

Minister Chuck’s Opening statement, p. 2

What he did not do was to provide any data on how that MOU has functioned. There was no data, for example, on the number of files INDECOM has sent to the ODPP each year; no data on how long it has taken for the ODPP to make decisions on the files sent; no data on the causes of any delays; no data on what decisions have been made (without identifying the individual cases themselves, but whether decisions were made to prosecute, to send to coroner’s court or for disciplinary proceeding or other options).

Beyond the Minister’s assurances, what would Members of Parliament (and members of the public) rely on to assess how the ODPP has managed the INDECOM files to date and will be able to manage them in the future?

Although the Minister didn’t specifically refer to the Joint Select Committee recommendation that INDECOM should clearly have the power to arrest and charge, this is not being supported by the Government either. (See Section 20, p. 10 of the report.) And Minister Chuck didn’t give the reasoning for this in his presentation.

Mr Chuck listed a number of additional amendments to be included and set out the intended process if the motion passes:

These recommendations plus others in the Report will be introduced in a Bill to amend the INDECOM Act and drafting instructions will accordingly be provided to OPC at the close of this debate and after further consideration by Cabinet.  I hope that the proposed amended Bill will be tabled in Parliament during this fiscal year.

Minister Chuck’s Opening statement, p. 4

Next week is scheduled to be the last week before Parliament goes on its summer break. This debate is likely to be completed and the motion passed without much notice. And this will be a blow for police accountabilty measures in Jamaica. There will still be the opportunity to advocate for inclusion of these powers up until a new Bill is actually passed, although Minister Chuck has indicated the Government’s position.

INDECOM, under the leadership of its first Commissioner – Terrence Williams – has had a significant impact in its first ten years. I wonder what the next ten years will bring…

Related Documents

Motion Regarding Amendments to the Independent Commission of Investigations Act, 2010 brought to the House on May 27, 2020, by Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck. (If I find a better copy of the motion, I will post it.)

Motion Regarding Amendments to Independent Commission of Investigations Act, 2020 - Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck May 27 2020

Text of Minister Chuck’s Opening Statement in Debate on INDECOM Act Amendment Motion 

Minister Chuck's Opening Statement in INDECOM Act motion

MINISTER CHUCK’S OPENING PRESENTATION – INDECOM – Amendment to INDECOM Act – dated 17-7-2020 – delivered 22-7-2020

Report of Joint Select Committee Reviewing the INDECOM Act – Tabled in Parliament 2015

JFJ graphic

 

Recent post by Jamaicans for Justice on proposed amendments to the INDECOM Act

JFJ – Safeguard INDECOM’s Independence – Reform the INDECOM Act – 22-6-2020

PBCJ Recording of the Sitting of House of Representatives July 21, 2020 Minister Chuck’s statement begins at approximately 3:43:00 in the recording.

 

 

 

 


Jamaica’s Chief Justice Speaks to the Nation

On Sunday, March 10, 2019, Jamaica’s Chief Justice, Hon. Justice Mr Bryan Sykes, made a national address that was widely carried in the electronic media. The Chief Justice’s address has been described as unprecedented and both the fact of the address itself and its contents have been the subject of much comment and discussion.

JIS photo of Chief Justice Bryan Sykes

Chief Justice of Jamaica,  Hon. Mr Justice Bryan Sykes (JIS photo)

I welcome the Chief Justice’s decision to speak directly to the people of Jamaica in a broadcast of this kind and his willingness to give these public commitments for improvements in the justice system, including some very specific ones with timelines, for which he can be held accountable. There is obviously some concern about whether the commitments made can actually be accomplished, given that they have to do with longstanding issues of delays and backlogs.  I assume that Chief Justice Sykes has assessed the challenges and thinks that they are surmountable. He has asked for the support of all stakeholders in working to achieve these goals and the public nature of the commitments increases the pressure on those with direct control and responsibility to carry out their roles assiduously. If any of the commitments is not met, his national address has set a paradigm of transparency which would require him to come back to the people to explain exactly what happened to prevent its achievement.

Some of the specific commitments and timelines are:

  • In divorce matters, once the documents are submitted error free, the decree absolute will be issued within 16 weeks.
  • By December 31, 2019, there will be no outstanding divorces.
  • In relation to matters of probate and letters of administration, that is, establishing the validity of wills and dealing with the estates of persons who died without a will, once all documents are submitted error free, the Supreme Court Staff will ensure that these take no longer than 12 weeks.
  • By December 31, 2019, all outstanding judgments in the Supreme Court will be delivered.
  • As of 2020, a judgment should be delivered within 90 days, and in exceptional cases, 180 days following completion of the case

We are more used to members of the Legislature or the Executive making national addresses; to have the head of the Judiciary make such an address is new. Hopefully the promise of this address will be fulfilled.

Text & Video of Address

JIS CJ Sykes speech

The text of the address is posted on the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) website and below it on the website is a video of the address. I have posted the full text here:

Chief Justice of Jamaica, Hon. Mr. Justice Bryan Sykes OJ, CD: Address to the Nation

Good evening Jamaica. I am Bryan Sykes, your Chief Justice. When I took the oath of office, one year ago, it was with a deep sense of gratitude and humility.

I understood the complexity, as well as the magnitude of the work that needed to be done to transform the judicial arm of government with excellence and efficiency at its core.

It was also with the recognition that if Jamaica is to achieve vision 2030, the Jamaican Judiciary must remain strong and maintain its integrity. In this regard I must recognize the contribution of previous Chief Justices and Judges.

I am making it my mandate for us to have excellent courts. Excellent courts rest on three pillars. First, trial and hearing date certainty.

This means that the trial or hearing takes place on the day it is listed to begin. We no longer set multiple trials for each courtroom as this always lead to adjournments.

Unnecessary delays will not be accommodated.

We must get to the point where matters begin on the day they are scheduled, and move away from the culture of multiple adjournments and mention dates. The culture shift has begun to produce desirable results in the Supreme Court and Parish Courts.

The Court of Appeal should also increase its disposal rate as, since January 2019, there are now three additional judges with three more to be added later in this year.

The consequence of hearing and trial date certainty is that cases are disposed of within stated time standards.

In Jamaica this means disposing of cases within 24 months of entry into the courts.

In some Divisions of the Supreme Court, the Gun Court and Parish Courts that statistics show that more than 100 cases are being disposed of for every 100 cases filed.

For the first time last year seven Parish Courts had a clearance rate over 100%. This has set the platform for us to clear the current backlog within six years.

Secondly, excellent courts are efficient. Time, human and material resources are properly utilized to produce the best outcomes.

It is our goal to decrease the waiting time for the adjudication of some matters. For example, in divorce matters, once the documents are submitted error free, the decree absolute will be issued within 16 weeks. By December 31, 2019, there will be no outstanding divorces. That is our commitment to you.

In relation to matters of probate and letters of administration, that is, establishing the validity of wills and dealing with the estates of persons who died without a will, once all documents are submitted error free, the Supreme Court Staff will ensure that these take no longer than 12 weeks. That is our commitment to you.

Thirdly, excellent courts mean that we have a culture of service among staff and judges. Research has shown that the perception of court users is influenced by how they are treated and not only by the outcome of their cases.

Therefore, as our customer service charter states, court staff will be courteous, respectful, fair and prompt. We have ongoing training for court staff to improve their basic customer service and stress management skills. This will continue as we aim for first world standards.

My vision is for our Judiciary to be the best in the Caribbean Region in three years and among the best in the world in six years beginning March 1, 2019.

To support this vision, I give my commitment to put in place measures so that by December 31, 2019 all outstanding judgments in the Supreme Court will be delivered. As of 2020 a judgment should be delivered within 90 days, and in exceptional cases, 180 days following completion of the case.

Courts will start on time and trial time productively utilized. All stakeholders – judges, court staff, witnesses, jurors, attorneys at law, police officers and others, despite the many challenges they face, must resolve to come to court to assist in the administration of justice.

The Judiciary that I lead will ensure that Jamaica is the place of choice to live, work, raise families, do business and retire in peace and safety.

Join the Judiciary and partner with us, as we work to strengthen the rule of law in Jamaica land we love. Thank you.

Additional Document of Interest

Parish Courts of Jamaica 2018 report coverTHE CHIEF JUSTICE’S ANNUAL STATISTICS REPORT ON CRIMINAL MATTERS IN THE PARISH COURTS 2018