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Container courts for mention dates – Sykes

Published:Wednesday | May 31, 2023 | 12:58 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Chief Justice Bryan Sykes
Chief Justice Bryan Sykes

JAMAICA’S CHIEF Justice, Bryan Sykes, has pitched container courts coupled with technology as a means of reducing time and resources spent on mention date court appearances.

He reasoned that in efficiently run courts, mention dates are not more than three, in accordance with international standards.

“So cases that are going on for five, 10 and 15 mention dates have to become a thing of the past,” he said in his keynote address at the Jamaica Police Federation’s 80th Annual Joint Conference which was held in Trelawny yesterday.

Sykes said at present, excessive human and financial resources are being used to transport remandees to court, primarily because Jamaica does not have remand facilities outside of Kingston, St Andrew and St Catherine.

He explained that when there are multiple mention dates in western parishes, prisoners have to be transported twice or thrice a week.

“We are using six police officers, a truck, escort vehicle, tyres and gas, travelling 200 miles to transport someone who appears before a judge for five minutes and oftentimes when you have these unnecessary mention dates, statements are outstanding or the ballistic certificate hasn’t come yet. Why do you have to transport somebody 200 miles to hear that?” he questioned.

The chief justice said the current arrangements are a “waste of time and resources” and the time has come for the justice system and the constabulary force to think seriously about how they utilise public funds.

Sykes said during a recent visit to Guyana, he saw container courts at major police stations and remand facilities.

“All that is really required is a 20-foot container, camera, internet connection, two seats and for the correctional officers or the police officers to be inside with them, depending on whether it is at a department of corrections facility or a police facility,” he explained.

This arrangement, he said, can be implemented without additional budgetary allocation.

He added that retrofitting a container is not expensive as it only needs electricity supply, air conditioning, a camera, a screen and a microphone.

Further, he said mention dates have an impact on the efficiency of the courts.

Sykes detailed that there are too many instances of adjournment due to incomplete files, disclosure, outstanding ballistic certificates, outstanding statements, medical certificates and scene of crime certificates, as well as instances where the accused has not been brought before the court or the investigating officer is absent.

“Many of these things are within the control of the police and many of these things can be transmitted via email. There is no necessity, other than getting the object to the lab, for going several times to the lab in Kingston to collect a certificate,” the chief justice said.