Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Region’s top cops want 24-hour courts

THE TOP cops of the Caribbean region have lamented what they see as worsening murder rates and also a lingering chronic backlog in court cases that reflect poorly on the justice administration system.

They, therefore, have chosen to engage in some new initiatives at the 29th annual general meeting of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners (ACCP) that took place over four days last week in Port of Spain.

One such move is to communicate with the governments and judiciary of the region to give urgent consideration for the introduction of 24-hour courts to expedite, in the various jurisdictions, reduction of mounting civil and criminal cases with the emphasis that “justice delayed is justice denied”.

The commissioners of Police, who had as their central theme “Working in Partnership to Combat Transnational Crime”, alluded to the ever-increasing in time it takes for cases to be dealt with, as much as ten years, including rape and murder offences.

In a statement on their conference, the ACCP said this problem “is resulting in increasingly dangerous offenders being granted bail which is further fuelling violence as witnesses are targeted and assassinated”.

They have also denounced what they regard as “the constant scourge of bribe payments” and the ongoing challenges to combat human trafficking. They pointed out that this “modern-day slavery” involved children as young as five years and upward, from countries in Asia, “some into servitude, others for sex”.

The top cops stressed that the region’s murder rates were “far too high”, recording at over 50 per 100,000 population and, additionally, that the region was now burdened with “endemic corruption”, according to a survey conducted by Transparency International.

Emphasising that the region was currently facing the real threat of growing lawlessness, the commissioners said they have committed themselves “to fully engaging the government and judiciary in member countries of the region to “expedite court appearances” with a view to moving towards establishing 24-hour courts in all jurisdictions.

The new approach to resolving the great backlog of cases, they said, must be designed to change the processes to put victims and witnesses at the heart of the criminal justice system.

The commissioners said they also shared “best practices” among themselves and commended Jamaica for leadership in piloting “a real-time intelligence template that identifies trends in one country with cybercrime or ATM fraud as examples to be immediately flagged to colleagues for action”.

Together, the commissioners asked of their key partners in the battle against criminality to join them “in seeking a renewal of public confidence and faith in the rule of law” across the Caribbean.