Supporting Justice Sykes' drive for order and efficiency

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

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Just over a year ago, Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, then newly appointed to act in the position, promised Jamaicans that under his watch the court system would not be business as usual.

A few days ago, Chief Justice Sykes went a step further in what is being described as an unprecedented Address to the Nation by anyone in that position.

Simply put, Justice Sykes told Jamaicans that his “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”.

Justice Sykes gave his “commitment to put in place measures so that by December 31, 2019 all outstanding judgements in the Supreme Court will be delivered. As of 2020, a judgement 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 utilised. 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,” he said.

In the context of a country which has become used to those involved in criminal and civil matters going to their graves many, many years before cases are resolved, if ever — leading to the oft repeated conclusion that “there is no justice for poor people in Jamaica” — this is an extraordinary pledge by the chief justice.

And yet his track record over the last year, allied to the work of Justice Minister Mr Delroy Chuck, suggests this is no idle boast.

Justice Sykes tells us that under his watch, “In some divisions of the Supreme Court, the Gun Court and Parish Courts… statistics show that more than 100 cases are being disposed of for every 100 cases filed”.

And further that, “For the first time last year seven Parish Courts had a clearance rate over 100 per cent. This has set the platform for us to clear the current backlog within six years.”

The chief justice says that under his watch “unnecessary delays will not be accommodated”.

He speaks of an ongoing “culture shift” towards excellence solidly based on trial and hearing date “certainty”, expeditiousness of trials, efficiency of all concerned, and proper customer care, devoid of the offhand discourtesies to ordinary people, which for too long have been associated with the court system.

Doubters there will be. But they should bear in mind that, even with its many failings, this nation has made notable achievements in our time, among them the establishment of an electoral system that is now the envy of much of the world.

And over the last seven years, under governments run by opposing political parties, we have seen the determined, focused effort to correct the nation's dysfunctional economy to such an extent that debt-to-GDP ratio, which was close to 150 per cent in 2013, is now down below 100 per cent and falling.

Jamaicans should throw their weight behind this drive by Justice Sykes to lead a transformation towards a just and orderly society and a court system that efficiently serves everyone.

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