With serious crimes at an all-time high and citizens clamoring for answers, the Government is under tremendous pressure from both the Opposition and civil society to come up with solutions.
The Government while in Opposition did promise that if elected to office Jamaicans would be able to sleep with their doors open.
I supported this Administration’s push for elective office because of the ineptness and corruption within the ruling PNP. I was never deluded into thinking that if the JLP was elected to office the country would go from over 1200 homicides annually to people being able to sleep with their doors open.
Neither did I think that if elected the JLP would be this inept on crime and conciliatory to lobby groups which are partially driving crime on the Island.
This Government’s absolute weakness and unwillingness to empower the security forces has been a green light of acquiescence to Gangland to continue with their activities.
They have elevated their activities to never before seen levels al-la Montego Bay which is now a veritable war zone.
I thought that the JLP could in no way be worse than the PNP on the singular issue of crime, the jury is still out on that thought.
If one understand how societies work then one begins to grasp why the issue of crime has been such a focus of mine.
If we fix our crime problem we begin the process of fixing our economic and social ills, it is imperative therefore that we invest the appropriate energy and resources into ensuring that we have a credible justice system and a country built on the rule of law.
All things which enrich people’s lives are derived from those principles.
The Opposition PNP has zero credibility on the issue of crime, it has been in power for much longer periods of time than the governing JLP and has, in fact, presided over much of the decline in our country, financially, morally, ethically and as it relates to the nation’s security.
The Government has now embarked on utilizing the plea-bargain mechanism as one of the tools in the delivery of justice, not a groundbreaking move by any stretch but worthy nonetheless.
Many people are upset about this move as they see it as yet another attempt by the system to allow the guilty to go free with a slap on the wrist.
This is not an unreasonable fear to have considering that the courts have been willing and active co-conspirators in the Island’s incredible crime rate.
The courts continue to grant bail to defendants who have been charged with murder over and over and over, in some cases up to five or more times before they are required to answer the first murder charge.
Killing, receiving bail and knocking off witnesses in the case is the favorite course for the Island’s killers, the courts are all too willing to oblige.
In seeking to assuage those fears, the Island’s justice Minister Delroy Chuck told local media “The public at large must appreciate that, when you offer a lesser sentence, it’s not being weak on crime but you have to take into consideration the strength of your case going forward,” the minister insisted.
“On the face of it, it may seem preposterous or repugnant that you’re giving a non-custodial to a person who is charged with a serious crime, but if the evidence is unavailable, which means the man will go totally free, it might be in the interest of justice for him to plead guilty and get a sentence to complete the file.”
I’m unsure why a case would be on the docket for any period of time without case completion but that’s a question for a different day.
It’s remarkable how a totally reasonable sounding position can become a bitter taste in one’s mouth because of the character of the messenger.
Much of what Chuck had to say are simply common sense issues which can be fixed with greater supervision of the people who handle the cases from investigators to prosecuting attorneys.
There is nothing groundbreaking in his statements, however, this is the very same Delroy Chuck who wants cases over five (5) years old tossed from court dockets (including murder cases) as a supposed path to cleaning up those same dockets.
To the casual observer, those demands seem like a somewhat reasonable position to take if you exclude the murder cases from the equation.
“What is important is for the cases to be completed, and it seems to me that the best way to ensure that is the prosecution in all the cases now on trial should make it a point of duty to start a formal negotiation – maybe a written letter to the accused’s attorney and hope that a response comes back from the attorney to say they have discussed it with their client (and) they are rejecting the offer, or they are prepared to go into a negotiation.”Said Chuck.
Nonsense, those procedures should be codified in law not left up to letter writing in this day and age, with a hope that someone will reply in order for an agreement to be reached on an issue as important as a plea deal.
The best approach is to have those procedures codified, it should be on the table for all cases (unless otherwise specified in law).
Since the death penalty is no longer on the table murder accused should be given the option to take a plea for life with the possibility of parole as against without the possibility of parole.
It is because of the tardiness and lack of seriousness in the penalties why citizens are incensed about this procedure.
A closer look reveals that it is usually defense attorneys who cause some of the delays because they have not been paid for their services, or simply because they understand the system and know full well that dragging cases out will end in a non-prosecution for their clients.
So in essence, were the country to take Delroy Chuck’s path it would be rewarding murderers and adding legitimacy to those practices which were started by defense attorneys.
It’s important to pay attention to what some defendants said: ” we can buss di case”.
That translate into there are ways to beat being held accountable in the system, so there is no need for them to take a plea.
We have the tail wagging the dog in Jamaica and things are not about to get better.
The reason behind Jamaica’s two political parties reluctance to stand against criminality is an open question.