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Sykes: Circuit Court has outlived its usefulness

Published:Thursday | March 2, 2023 | 12:42 AMLeon Jackson/Gleaner Writer
Chief Justice Bryan Sykes.
Chief Justice Bryan Sykes.

WESTERN BUREAU: Chief Justice Bryan Sykes believes that Jamaica’s Circuit Court system should undergo changes to bring it up to date with current realities in terms of the cases it is asked to adjudicate on. “The Circuit Court system, as it now...

WESTERN BUREAU:

Chief Justice Bryan Sykes believes that Jamaica’s Circuit Court system should undergo changes to bring it up to date with current realities in terms of the cases it is asked to adjudicate on.

“The Circuit Court system, as it now exists in Jamaica, has outlived its usefulness. The law governing the Circuit Courts was designed for a time when there were much fewer cases. That has changed, and there are a lot more cases to be tried,” Sykes said in an interview with The Gleaner after giving an address to the 173rd Assembly of the Jamaica Baptist Union at the National Arena in Kingston on Sunday.

“At a time past, the Circuit Court in Trelawny would open and close in one day. Cases have come before the courts now that didn’t exist when the law was passed,” Sykes added, pointing to matters relating to possession of identity information and the issue of gangs.

“The technology which is being used to unravel these cases by the police is time-consuming and contributes to lengthy trials,” said Sykes, outlining some of the modern complexities now impacting the Circuit Court.

‘Trial centres’

He said that the law in relation to the Circuit Courts needs to be changed, recommending as one solution the establishment of ‘trial centres’ across the island.

Sykes also expressed reservations about jury trials.

“Are we going to continue with a mode of trial which has proven to be inefficient, costly, and time-consuming? To select a jury panel of seven can take half a day. The law also allows attorneys to object to anyone being empanelled without giving an explanation,” he noted, adding that competent persons who have been selected to serve, especially professionals, sometimes find creative ways to shy away from performing their civic duty.

“Another aspect is that the persons who end up being selected are those who can least afford it because of their mode of employment,” said Sykes. “Other persons from, say, the financial sector, can afford to have a doctor give a certificate, which will say they are suffering from every ailment under the sun and cannot serve. The trial by jury is no longer fit for purpose and needs to be abandoned,” he suggested.

Last July, at the launch of the Justice For All campaign, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck acknowledged that the courts are overwhelmed with cases, making it almost impossible to get justice.

“The delays create more injustice than justice and the maxim ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ is quite appropriate every day when you go to court because matters are put off not only for months, but for years,” Chuck said at the time.

leon.jackson@gleanerjm.com