Criminals — Jamaica and Bahamas’ problems
Nassau, The Bahamas
JAMAICA, which has been working hard to get its crime under control, seems to have taken a long slide backwards in recent months.
Even more worrying is the corruption that Justice Minister Delroy Chuck -- in an address on Saturday to graduates of the Norman Manley Law School-- says has reached a formidable level in Jamaica's legal system.
He told graduates, entering a system threatened by corruption, that one of his ministry's priorities under the Justice Reform Programme was "to build trust and confidence in the justice system".
"There is corruption within the court and the justice system, where the police have been paid to say they cannot find a witness, or persons have been paid to have documents destroyed - amongst many other things," he told the graduates.
"Cases languish on the books for years with very little progress, clients become frustrated and cannot move on with their lives, sometimes they appease their grievances by taking justice into their own hands," Monday's Daily Gleaner quoted Justice Minister Chuck as saying.
Reported the Gleaner: "He noted that developments in the system leave lawyers with a bad reputation as being of no help while the justice system gets a bad reputation of being of no use.
"Our judges are known for their integrity and fair play but so much more is required of them," Justice Chuck told the graduates, who he urged not to contribute to the problems when they go into practice.
"They (the judges) must assist in removing any taint of corruption, vulgarity or malpractice that may exist and they must help us to strengthen public trust and confidence in the justice system."
He said hundreds of thousands of cases had been in the court system for eight months -- some even for years.
Last year, said the justice minister, there were almost 460,000 cases before the courts -- with more than half being a backlog.
He said that stemming the backlog was everybody's business as it posed a real threat to the nation's economy.
Many years ago, Sir Etienne Dupuch sounded like a broken record as he constantly urged, through this same column, that Bahamians get a handle on crime - which at that time was nothing to what it is today.
He warned that the Bahamas was following down the same dead-end path as Jamaica.
According to the US International Safety and Travel alert "violence and shootings occur regularly in certain areas of Kingston and Montego Bay".
As for the Bahamas: "The Bahamas has a high crime rate. New Providence Island in particular has experienced a spike in crime that has adversely affected the travelling public... The Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape in the Caribbean according to a 2007 United Nations report on crime, violence, and development trends."
In Jamaica recently, gangs not only kill, but behead their adversaries. They then hide the head, obviously to make identification more difficult.
The Daily Gleaner reported a Jamaican police officer moaning: "This haffi stop, it has to. But the justice system not working for us (police). You hold a man for murder, him go jail, and him get bail and is back on the road again. It can't work!"
Sound familiar? No, it can't work and it won't work.
This is the very matter that will be discussed in the House of Assembly in this session as government prepares to crack down on criminals by amending the Criminal Procedure Code.
The Bahamas cannot continue to follow in Jamaica's criminal shadow.
October 11, 2011