Plea Bargaining Can be Made Better, says Bar Association

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President of the Jamaica Bar Association, Jacqueline Cummings, says better police investigations are needed for the plea bargaining program to be a successful initiative.

She was reacting to Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, who on the weekend expressed disappointment that the plea bargaining system introduced last year hasn’t taken off as expected.

Minister Chuck says they need at least 70-percent of the cases to be dealt with through plea bargaining, in order to succeed in clearing the backlog in the courts.

Ms Cummings says 90-percent of cases could be disposed of in plea bargaining if better police investigations are done.

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She’s also calling for more training for defense attorneys in plea bargaining.

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Minister Chuck had sought to lay the blame for limited guilty plea, at the feet of defense attorneys, saying not enough of them are encouraging their clients to take the plea offers.

But Ms Cummings says defense attorneys can’t force their clients to plead guilty if they don’t wish to do so.

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Ms. Cummings also says prosecutors should do more to guide the process of plea bargaining.

In the meantime, Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Paula Llewelyn, is assuring the Justice Minister that several cases are being disposed of in guilty pleas.

She says while the formal plea bargaining system hasn’t taken off as the Minister would like, there’s been a vast increase in persons opting to go the route of informal guilty pleas.

The DPP says with the informal route, there’s little need for documentation.

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Ms. Llewelyn also reacted to the President of the Jamaica Bar Association’s suggestion that prosecutors need to do more to guide the process of plea bargaining.

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