Golding stands by discounted sentence law

April 08, 2021
Denise Burrell speaks about the death of her cousin, Millicent Robinson, whose body was found in a shallow grave in her yard in Craig Town, St Andrew, on Sunday.
Denise Burrell speaks about the death of her cousin, Millicent Robinson, whose body was found in a shallow grave in her yard in Craig Town, St Andrew, on Sunday.
Opposition leader Mark Golding.
Opposition leader Mark Golding.

Opposition Leader Mark Golding has dismissed calls for the scrapping of legislation that allows persons who plead guilty to various crimes to benefit from a reduction in sentences.

Under the Criminal Justice Administration Act, persons who plead guilty to their crimes at the first opportunity can get a 50 per cent discount on their sentences.

"The Opposition rejects knee-jerk, emotional proposals like repealing carefully designed sentencing arrangements that have resulted in the timely disposal of a large volume of criminal cases from the court system," Golding said in a statement yesterday.

The discount regime, which was passed in 2015 when Golding was minister of justice in the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration, has been heavy criticised in recent times. Kerensia Morrison, North East St Catherine member of parliament, speaking in the House of Representatives last week, said that 'discount' provision should be removed from the Criminal Justice Administration Act.

"The law needs to serve as a deterrent. It cannot be that you kill someone and it is an automatic 50 per cent off the sentence because of a guilty plea," Morrison said.

Her comment was made against the background of several instances of violence being meted out against women. On the day she spoke, Robert Fowler was charged for the death of Khanice Jackson. The 20-year-old was murdered and her body dumped in Portmore. Police said Fowler confessed to strangling her.

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck said that the 'discount provision' could be repealed when lawmakers consider the new Rights of Appeal Bill, which he said will be brought to Parliament soon.

However, Golding, in Parliament last Tuesday, stressed that it is not automatic that a person would benefit from discounted sentences if they plead guilty. The language used is the law is "The court may" as opposed to 'shall', which means that the judge is not bounded by statute to apply a discount when considering sentencing in cases where a guilty plea as been made.

Golding said, though, that it may be time to review the provision, which was enacted to help clear the backlog in the courts.

The Opposition leader, in a statement yesterday, also said that the issue of crime and violence requires the full attention of the Government. He said that the Opposition is "deeply troubled by the deteriorating lawlessness in Jamaica, and the lack of any discernible strategy to stem the tide".

"Clarendon teacher Natalie Dawkins remains missing. In my own constituency, the body of 50-year-old Millicent Robinson was recently found buried in a shallow grave in her own yard. Incidents such as these have deepened the sense of vulnerability among women, demoralising the entire population," Golding said.

"We are willing to join in a national response to the unravelling crime situation in the country. Our civic organisations, including churches, must play important roles. We call for the Government to initiate immediate dialogue, leading to action to turn the situation around and restore hope and security in Jamaica," he added.

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