ROSE HALL, St James — Justice Minister Delroy Chuck is calling on criminals to utilise the plea bargaining agreements (Plea Negotiations and Agreement Act) to expose what he calls the “big man and big politicians” that they may have been working with, in exchange for a lesser sentence.
Addressing justices of the peace (JPs) sensitisation session at Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, St James, on Friday, Chuck argued that while some witnesses may be fearful to come forward, “this is an opportune time for criminals to come forward and possibly benefit from a variety of benefits available to them”.
“There are many witnesses who are so fearful they don’t come forward. But, if the criminals can acknowledge that they have done wrong and are prepared to come forward, come clean and speak with the prosecution — not only for immunity in some cases, but for a reduction of sentence and, if they are in the jails, for a reconsideration of their sentence or even for early parole. But, under these circumstances, work with the DPP (director of public prosecutions) so we can expose and convict more criminals within our midst. And, I go further and say many of these criminals know which big man or big politician who has been working with them. Expose them,” Chuck urged.
The justice minister, who is also an attorney-at-law, said it is time for Jamaica to become clean.
“The allegations of connections between politics and crime may well be true, and it is important that those who are engaged in corruption and participating in corrupt activities with criminals be exposed. Let the message be loud and clear that some of these criminals will expose them, and I hope they do — because if in working with big man, big politician…expose them,” Chuck stressed.
“Jamaica, it is time for us to come clean. We can never build a great society on wrongdoing,” he went on.
The minister’s pronouncement came on the heels of the recent case involving Tesha Miller, who was on Tuesday found guilty of orchestrating the murder of then Jamaica Urban Transit Company Chairman Douglas Chambers in June 2008.
In the Miller matter, the prosecution’s case was hinged on the testimony of a lone alleged gangster and former accomplice of Miller, who is currently in custody. This was done by utilising plea bargaining.
“We have this unanimous witness who decided, probably sitting down in his cell in the prison reflecting on the 13 of his relatives who have been killed, and said ‘time to turn a new leaf and decided to contact the authorities; let me see if I can dismantle this gang’,” said Chuck.
“He came forward and, without prejudicing where it may go, the little that I have read, it seems to me that the evidence was valid, at least the jury thought what he said to be truthful. And, based on that, was able to get a conviction of one of our notorious gangsters,” stated Chuck, adding that “my great hope is that more of this becomes possible”.
However, the minister made it clear that amendments will be made to the law (Parole Act) that will severely punish persons who lie in order to benefit from the programme.
“So, if you come forward and think that you can trick the DPP by coming forward to lie to reduce your sentence, and it turns out that you are lying and trying to implicate the big man because you want a reduced sentence, then you will suffer the consequence of an increased sentence. But at the same time, it must be held out to criminals like the unanimous witness who admitted he is a criminal.
Chuck said he is willing to take on the mission of going into the prisons and handing out flyers, and urged the prisoners to expose their fellow criminals.
Chuck, in reiterating the Government’s intent to continue pursuing the use of plea bargaining to improve the backlog of cases in the courts, made reference to the United States of America where the vast majority of criminal cases are resolved through plea bargaining.
“An average of 95 per cent of criminal cases in the United States are resolved by plea bargaining. Less than five per cent, and in most states,less than three per cent of the cases actually go to trial. Can you imagine if we could get 90 per cent, even 50 per cent of the cases, being dealt with by plea bargaining?” he asked.