Mon | Apr 22, 2019

Who is fighting for the rights of the wrongly accused?

Published:Saturday | February 23, 2019 | 12:18 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Why does it take so long for an appeal to be brought before the Court of Appeal in Jamaica? Is there a policy timeline for an appeal to be heard? If there is a shortage of court staff in the Supreme Court and the Appeal Court, what is the Government doing about it?

Is it because it’s considered that it’s mostly illiterate or semi-literate persons who don’t know their rights who are behind bars? Is it because it’s mostly poor persons who may not have the means to good representation who are in most penal institutions why there is no one pursuing their rights? Is there so much confidence in the justice system that no one cares if innocent persons go to prison and take forever to get a chance at justice?

I am not trying to beat down the established jury system. But seriously, though, how many qualified persons who are intimately knowledgeable about the law make up a jury panel? I know a lot of innocent persons get sent to prison via this system.

What then is the alternative in an appeal process that takes forever to even get started?I was made aware of persons awaiting appeal for up to five and eight years and still don’t get a copy of their transcript!

LOST TIME

There is a particular case where an individual was sent to prison for five years. He insisted that he was innocent of the crime.

He applied for an appeal, and while waiting, he was advised by prison officials that it would be better to apply for parole as this would have become due after a short time.

After waiting three and a half years, persons started telling him to withdraw his appeal and just finish the time.

However, he refused, and after four years and some months, he was successful in his appeal and was released from prison. This speaks to a lot of issues as time spent innocently in prison can never be replaced.

The main area that the delays seem to be coming from is from the Supreme Court and other trial courts.

It is welcome news to see the justice minister speaking about introducing audiovisual equipment to assist in how records are taken in court proceedings.

Let’s hope it’s not just talk and promises but action and implementation. There seems to be a shortage of court support staff. This needs to be addressed quickly.

I note Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ quote, “A thing should not take 10 days to be done when it can be done in one.”

Families of innocent persons are being affected while their loved ones languish in prison.

The ones behind bars are sometimes the breadwinners and some are decent, law- abiding citizens who may be wrongly accused.

CONCERNED JAMAICAN