Jamaica justice system under pressure

KINGSTON, Jamaica, May 29, 2009 – Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding says the country’s justice system is under severe stress.

He said that for last year alone, there were some 345,000 cases listed for the Resident Magistrates courts. That number does not include the numbers listed in the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal.

“We have resource constraints as many countries do but ours is particularly severe and so, over many years, we have not been able to invest and allocate the resources that are sufficient to maintain our justice system at a level that would be adequate to cope with the pressures imposed on it,” he said at the Ministry of Justice’s Third International Conference on restorative and community justice which ended yesterday.

The theme for the conference was ‘Transforming individual, family, community and country’ and was aimed at training Justices of the Peace, institutional and community leaders in the move to establish community Justice Tribunals in Jamaica.

Golding noted that Restorative Justice sees crime as an act not so much against the state but against the individual and the community. He said the victim becomes the centre of the process and the focus is shifted from asking which law was broken and what punishment should be meted out.

“The questions it now poses are who has been harmed, who caused the harm and what the person who caused the harm can do to redress the wrong. It is a completely different approach and it allows a process that is more rehabilitative,” Golding explained.

The Prime Minister said part of the justice reform programme that the Minister of Justice had been mandated to pursue, is to improve the capacity of judges, to introduce technology to make the system more efficient and to develop and enhance the human resources. (JIS)