Lengthy remands become a concern: Chief Justice

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Chief Justice Sir Albert Palmer. Photo by RNZ
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BY JENNIFER KUSAPA

Chief Justice Sir Albert Palmer has raised concerned over continuous lengthy remands awaiting for trials.

He said such delays are incompatible with a society founded on firm constitutional rights and requires all stakeholders to rise to the challenge to have this ongoing issue addressed this year.

Sir Albert said on some occasion the waiting time are more than 18 months and even going up to 36 months and it should be of concern to all in the Justice Sector Agencies.

“Not only is it an affront to the Constitutional rights of an accused to have his case heard speedily, it puts pressure on other justice agencies, including the police and Correctional Service and an added cost and burden to society.  Victims too are entitled to know that their complaints are being attended to and justice being attended to”, Sir Albert said.

The core duty of the courts is to hear and dispose of cases timely.  Its’ ability and capacity to do so efficiently and effectively is ultimately what matters to the litigants, public and the Court.

He said prolonging and ongoing adjournments culminating in a failure to hear cases timely is partly to be blamed for ongoing delays and should be discouraged as these may inevitably lead to a miscarriage of justice.

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“Courts should be sitting regularly to hold trials to ensure that cases are disposed of timely.  When that is done delays will eventually be reduced and the plight of those in remand addressed.

“I call on all stakeholders, the Courts and Counsel in the DPP’s office and the PSO to be vigilant and diligent in the handling of these matters and to step up to this challenge and ensure that those in remand are given priority in the listing and hearing of their cases.

“I note the criticisms and concerns expressed by both the Attorney-General and the President of the Bar Association and call on all judicial officers to prioritize decision making in the first half of the year.  All outstanding judgments will need to be seriously addressed to ensure that these are delivered promptly.

“I also call on all Legal Practitioners to step up their support and commitment to the court this year, reduce and avoid unnecessary adjournments and or interlocutory applications, which only prolong a matter, in particular on logging cases”, Sir Albert said.

Sir Albert also said that there are too many unnecessary applications for interlocutory injunctions which have little impact on the ultimate outcome of a case other than more delays.

He reminds counsel and litigants should be looking towards moving a case forward timely to ensure a just outcome and assisting the court to reach a decision quickly.  This will require not only the application of appropriate legal skills, knowledge and understanding of a case, but due diligence and alertness on the part of counsel.  There are simply too many unnecessary interlocutory applications which are slowing the timely disposal of a case down.

“A legal practitioner’s duty to his client must be balanced with his overriding duty towards the court and the law. It is improper and unethical for a lawyer to accede to his client’s request when he knows that it is contrary to the law, procedure and good practice.  Make 2020 a year when cases can be disposed of promptly and not prolonged unnecessarily, clogging up the court lists and delaying the delivery of judgments”, Sir Albert added.

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