In an effort to reduce backlog of court cases, Jamaican attorneys have been encouraged to make use of the Supreme Court’s Sentence Reduction Day initiative. Last Thursday and Friday were the latest in the sentencing reduction program.
“The backlog is not beneficial to any side; defense attorneys are suffering. When you have a case dragging on for 10 years, there is no amount of money to be paid to you to account for that. So, if you can get rid of it early while doing what is in the best interest of your client, then the system, I think, will begin to work a little better,” said Queen’s Counsel Valerie Neita-Robinson.
Sentences reduced by 50 percent
The Sentence Reduction Day initiative provides opportunity for accused persons to enter a guilty plea and benefit from a maximum of up to 50 per cent reduction in their sentence.
This is according to the provisions of the Criminal Justice Administration Amendment Act, 2015.
According to Neita-Robertson, it’s the obligation of all defense attorneys to facilitate an efficient system in the best interest of justice.
Best interest of attorney and client
“The defense attorney does what is in the best interest of his or her client. If the client is guilty and tells you he is guilty, having indicated that this is his wish, I would really encourage all attorneys [to utilize the Sentence Reduction Days],” she said.
She also urged young attorneys to seek assistance and support from senior counsel, if needed, in order to take advantage of the provisions under the program.
Neita-Robertson further noted that she personally used the initiative in its initial installment on May 22 this year, from which her clients benefited significantly.
She added that it is also valuable that pleading guilty on the day carries no penalty for the accused, noting that the attorney can get a sentencing indication from the judge ahead of the proceedings.
“Persons in the past Sentence Reduction Day received suspended sentences, because when you take away time served, it comes down to zero; but the accused would still have to pay a penalty for breaking the law. This penalty could be either probation or suspended sentence,” she said.
On Thursday morning, in a bid to obtain up to 50 percent reduction in his sentence, a grounds-man accused of murdering his 76-year-old boss, pleaded guilty to the charge. The accused, Omar Graham, 26, was arrested and charged with the murder of Barbara Moncrieffe, co-owner of Moncrieffe’s Patio Shop in St. Andrew.
In another case, Lorna Williamson, 47, a medical assistant who snatched a day old baby from the University Hospital of the West Indies last December, pleaded guilty when she appeared in court.
The Sentence Reduction Day program is being implemented by the Criminal Case Management Steering Committee, which has as its mandate the implementation of policies and strategies that are geared towards the administration of justice in a timely manner in all the courts.
For recent news on rulings of the Jamaica Supreme Court, visit the link: UWI accepts court ruling in wrongful dismissal of professor