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Why dither in appointing Justice Sykes?

Jamaica Observer / We are not quite sure why the Government would name Mr Justice Bryan Sykes as acting chief justice rather than announcing his full appointment. However, what we do know about Justice Sykes is that he is an eminent jurist who commands the respect of the legal profession and that his integrity is beyond question. Indeed, even before yesterday — when Justice Sykes was sworn in by the governor general at King’s House — the talk among practitioners in the legal profession was that he was an excellent choice for the job of chief justice.

In fact, one attorney with whom this newspaper spoke said that some of the attributes that would make Justice Sykes an excellent chief justice are his penchant for hard work, getting matters completed, and writing judgements.

“He’s a very no-nonsense judge; he doesn’t waste time, and you better be prepared when you come before him,” the attorney said.

It is clear from his comments yesterday at King’s House that Justice Sykes wants to see and improvement of the justice system. News reports from the swearing-in ceremony told us that he called for increased investment in technology to speed up the judicial process.

According to Justice Sykes, mislaid files and documents not filed appropriately are contributing to trial delays.

“One way of resolving this, and the civil procedure rules already speak to this… is the use of appropriate and current technology to do the filing,” he is reported as saying. “Electronic filing will go a far way in reducing that kind of event.”

He also spoke to the issue of judges taking case files home to read, saying that this was “completely unnecessary, as technology can solve that problem”.

Justice Sykes is, of course, correct, because there is enough evidence from other jurisdictions that demonstrate the effectiveness of remote access which, as he pointed out, triggers electronic notification to judges as soon as documents are filed relating to the matter they are hearing.

While we are aware that video-link technology has already been installed in at least two courts to facilitate witnesses who cannot be physically present in the courtroom, we urge the Government to give greater priority to increasing the use of other forms of technology in the courts, as this has the potential to reduce costs and improve efficiency in the delivery of justice.

That, we believe, will help engender public trust in the justice system — a vital component of any society that thrives on the observance of law and order.

It is our hope that Justice Sykes’s call will be heard and action taken by the Administration to improve what now exists. We accept that it will cost money and, especially in the tight fiscal space in which Jamaica now operates, the courts are competing with other vital services for financing. However, the investment will redound to the benefit of the country.

We wish Justice Sykes all the best in his new acting role and hope that his commitment to the delivery of justice will lead to the improvements he advocates when he is appointed.

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