By Prince Moore
President of the Advocates Association of Jamaica, Leonard Green, is cautioning against the rush to dispose of cases before the courts, which he thinks might come at the expense of quality justice.
Chief Justice Bryan Sykes has been pushing for greater efficiency in how cases are managed in order to clear the backlog.
Efforts have also been made to have judge alone trials in order to improve the rate of disposition of matters before the courts.
But Mr. Green says there is a need for balance in achieving the objectives set out by the Chief Justice.
"Even the idea of a jury trial is something which is of great value to the judges, because the judges have the assistance of members of the society to assist them in arriving at a fair judgment. At the end of the day, it is a decision that the public can feel satisfied that they participated in," he argued.
"The idea of locking out members of the public from participating in the justice system is dangerous, because it seems to buy into the notion that those people who are legally trained and those people who are better trained than the ordinary person are the best ones to dispense justice. And I believe that that's a clear fallacy," Mr. Green insisted Thursday on Radio Jamaica's Beyond the Headlines.
Attorney at-law and chairman of Jamaicans for Justice, John Clarke, agrees that jury trials should be maintained, for more reasons than one.
"One of them is in fact the principle that the jury, not schooled as much in law, but schooled in what is proper and other considerations, may somehow be the final bulwark against overreach by the executive in relation to setting laws which are unjust and which will lead to unjust results. So there has always been good reason for having our peers make the final decision as to whether or not someone is criminally held liable, especially for the most heinous crimes," he contended.
Mr. Clarke said attention should be placed on reducing the length of time it takes to complete jury trials.
He noted that in many instances, judge-alone trials are completed in very short time, whereas jury trials can take years.
"What it does is make many accused persons think that if I want to have a trial in timely manner, I must sacrifice my 'right' to jury trial because if I exercise that right, I may spend two years extra in prison just because I want to be tried by jury," he reasoned.
Mr. Clarke was also a guest on Beyond the Headlines.