Great going so far, Chief Justice Sykes

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

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We are heartened by Chief Justice Bryan Sykes's disclosure that there have been significant performance improvements in some courts across the country, despite resource constraints.

Mr Sykes shared this positive information in Trelawny last Saturday at a case flow management seminar facilitated by the National Centre for State Courts in the USA in collaboration with the Judicial Education Institute of Jamaica.

“In the midst of what we are doing, we need to recognise that good things are happening within the courts [and] that it is not all doom and gloom,” Justice Sykes is reported as saying.

Sharing data from the Supreme Court's Statistics Department, Justice Sykes told us that the minimum standard for hearing date certainty is 80 per cent, but in an ideal world this should be between 92 and 100 per cent.

On the criminal side of the courts, he said the statistics revealed that hearing date certainty is approximately 54 per cent, while the average hearing date certainty across all divisions is 69 per cent.

However, the hearing date certainty for probate and matrimonial cases stand at over 80 per cent.

Even more impressive is that, for the first quarter of this year, commercial courts are reporting a hearing date certainty of 92 per cent.

The chief justice also said that at the parish court level, St Andrew, St Ann, and Westmoreland have seen a significant improvement in case clearance rates and reduction of backlog.

For example, in St Ann there is a reduction of more than 25 per cent in the backlog, even as that parish, he admitted, is one of the most difficult in terms of the number of judges and the inadequate condition of the courtrooms.

“We need to recognise that the judges who were here before... have receded the target, which was 20 per cent reduction in the backlog from December 2017 to now,” the chief justice said, pointing out that this was accomplished without any increase in resources or the number of judges, but through effective strategies to deal with difficult issues.

He also spoke to the experience in Westmoreland, which has a case clearance rate of 86.7 per cent, even though that parish has one of the heaviest caseloads in the island; and the Corporate Area, which has a case clearance rate of 76.25 per cent.

Chief Justice Sykes has correctly noted that, while the statistics are not ideal, they are pointing in the right direction. We agree, and, as he suggested, they should be used as sources of encouragement moving forward.

What Justice Sykes is effectively showing the country is that the court system, if properly managed, can produce the kind of results that will engender public confidence.

But, even as he and his staff do their part, it is incumbent on the Government to do even more than it is now doing to ensure that the justice system operates with more efficiency.

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has shown that he is committed to improving the system. We hope his enthusiasm and fixity of purpose are shared by his colleagues in the Administration.

The chief justice, we believe, is doing a fine job thus far. He needs to be given as much support as possible.

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