Chuck describes lengthy court cases as ‘tragedy’ and ‘injustice’ | Loop Jamaica

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Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has described as a “tragedy” and “injustice”, cases before the island’s courts that last beyond a year and run up to 20 years before they are completed.

If there is not a significant reduction relative to the turnaround time for the disposal of cases, Chuck says citizens will “not find peace”.

His comments came against the background of the recent acquittal of former Police Constable Lescene Edwards who was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend, Aldonna Harris-Vasquez, which was committed on September 5, 2003.

Harris-Vasquez’s body was found with a single gunshot wound to the head at her home, along with a suicide note.

Despite the note being found, Edwards was charged with the murder, and it was left up to the jury to decide whether the former cop had shot the woman or the wound was self-inflicted.

The trial was delayed for 10 years, and concluded with Edwards’ conviction in 2013.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a stipulation that he should serve a minimum of 35 years before becoming eligible for parole consideration.

But following hearings in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in February of this year, the court determined that, “There is simply no satisfactory explanation of how the defendant could have managed to murder the deceased in the very confined space of the bathroom, then move the body, open the door and appear a very short time afterwards in the living room without any blood being seen on him or his clothes, and without any bloodstains or bloodied footprints being found anywhere outside the bathroom.”

Speaking at the opening of the Greenwich Town Restorative Justice Centre in St Andrew on Friday, Chuck used the case to highlight that delays in the hearing of cases can result in citizens being unable to find peace.

“People are finding out that the courts are not easily accessible and justice easily obtained, and one of the main reason is that when they go to court they don’t understand the procedure, and moreover, even when they get their case to the court, it takes forever,” the justice minister stated.

“It is a tragedy in our courts that a matter should take five, 10, and one that came back from the Privy Council recently, almost 20 years.

“That’s not justice! I daresay, when any matter in any court lasts longer than a year, you’re getting injustice, because as they say, justice delayed is justice denied,” declared Chuck.

“Unless we can find ways and means where the people of this country can easily access appropriate ways and means to get justice, we will not find peace, and peace is so very important,” he added.

To that end, the minister indicated that the Ministry of Justice is “campaigning and on a mission” to “ensure that people cannot only access justice, but can, in fact, get justice in their lives.”

The ministry’s new alternative dispute resolution (ADR) programme is geared towards assisting in that effort, Chuck indicated.