Tuesday, December 27, 2016

US to Assist Jamaica with Introduction of Bargained Justice

According to the Jamaica Observer, the U.S. State Department has agreed to assist Jamaica in introducing bargained justice into its criminal justice system.  From the article:
The justice minister said that changes are to be made to the Criminal Justice (Plea Negotiations and Agreement) Act in order to make the legislation more effective and to speed up the pace at which justice is delivered to Jamaicans.
The Act, which was introduced in 2006 and amended in 2010, allows individuals accused of crimes to plead guilty and give testimony or information in return for a reduced penalty.
Minister Chuck explained that the amendments will, among other things, allow for the defence counsel to be a part of the plea bargaining process and to negotiate with the prosecutor and judge regarding the sentence to be imposed.
“If the accused knows that following a trial he can receive a sentence of 10 or 15 years, and he also knows that his defence counsel can bargain with the judge and get five years instead of 10 years, there is a real likelihood that he may accept the plea,” Minister Chuck explained.
“If there is an agreement, the matter can be dealt with right away. Always in this plea bargaining process, it will be under the jurisdiction of the judge, who must have the final say,” he noted further.
Minister Chuck said that plea bargaining is not intended to “soften” the justice system, noting that sentencing guidelines will be in place to ensure that justice is served.
Interestingly, the article indicates that Jamaican Minister of Justice, Delroy Chuck, explained that the "principle of plea bargaining was a time-honoured common law tradition...."  As readers of this blog will know, my 2012 article entitled Bargained Justice (available for free download here) traces the history of plea bargaining and reveals it is a relatively modern American phenomenon dating back mainly to the early 20th century and rising to dominance in the second half of the 20th century.  As many countries begin to adopt plea bargaining (See e.g. Japan - discussed here), I hope some of the important lessons we have learned about the psychology of plea bargaining will be considered as new laws and rules of criminal procedure are drafted in these various jurisdictions (For example, see The Innocent Defendant's Dilemma (available for free download here)). 

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