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No Changes Needed To Plea Bargaining Law, Says DPP

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No Changes Needed To Plea Bargaining Law, Says DPP

  Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn is cautioning parliamentarians against making changes to Jamaica’s laws which allow reduction in sentences for accused persons who plead guilty.   Following the murder of 20-year-old Khanice Jackson, parliamentarians on Tuesday expressed outrage at the violence against women and children, with government MP Kerensia Morrison decrying provisions for sentencing discounts of up to 50 per cent for persons who plead guilty in certain cases.   The DPP says while she understands the need to respond to calls for justice, the Criminal Justice Act is an excellent piece of legislation.   She also points out that there is no automatic granting of reduced sentences under the law and there are special provisions for murder.    “If you plead guilty, you can get up to 33 1/3 per cent, but if you plead guilty before the trial commences after the first relevant date, you can get 25 per cent and if it goes to during the trial for verdict, 15 per cent,” she outlined Thursday while speaking on Radio Jamaica’s call-in programme, Hotline.    She added that a clause in Section 42 of the legislation states that if the  reduction of a sentence for the defendant “is so disproportionate to the seriousness of the offence, or inappropriate in the case of the defendant, that it would shock the public conscience, then the judge can ignore the sentencing reduction.”    Ms Llewellyn further explained that the current laws allow for submission of  victim impact statements and give prosecutors a chance at the sentencing hearing to urge the judge not to grant a reduction.   She noted that such appeals have been successful in several cases, including the Lauriston double murder in which a mother and daughter were beheaded by a group of men in 2011.   Three of the five defendants in the case pleaded guilty. However, Ms Llewellyn argued that the men took seven years to register that guilty plea “which neutralises the showing of remorse.” Furthermore, she added the killings “had so terrorised the country that to stay within the guidelines would have shot the public conscience.”    The DPP pointed out that the men were sentenced to more than 40 years to life in prison despite their guilty pleas.    Instead of changes to the legislation, the DPP has suggested Members of Parliament redirect their focus to the societal issues fueling crime and causing “a lot of anti-social behaviour in some of their constituents.”   She contended one of those issues is that many males “are not being properly mentored and nurtured to have a high degree of respect for girl children and women.”