Looking back on 2017
What a year it was.
Parliament passed 26 laws in 2017, but the biggest crime-fighting law is still to be promulgated, the National Identification System, which is popularly called 'NIDS'.
Some Jamaicans believe that the real purpose of NIDS is to fight crime, but it is disguised as a national identification system.
There is a real fear that the personal data of Jamaicans would not be kept safe in Jamaica, but sent to our Americans and European partners to assist in their crime-fighting investigations of Jamaicans.
The opposition party believes it is a bad piece of legislation, while the ruling party believes it is the best thing since sliced bread. It is only a pity that it could not be put to a referendum.
There was also the constant bashing or, some may say, the constructive criticism of the judiciary by the minister of justice; and at the same time, there was an overflow of cases in almost all the courts.
Ironically, the justice minister speaks from his newly renovated plaza office about the performance of the court system with some of the courthouses operating out of godforsaken and dingy structures without adequate modern facilities, little or no access to the laws and cases, coupled with inadequate spaces for lawyers and litigants.
In addition, there is little or no parking facility for lawyers and litigants at most courthouses in Jamaica.
Then a new commissioner of police was appointed. Like so many before him, Commissioner Quallo was given an impossible job when he was appointed on April 18.
Instead of containing murder, it ballooned in some parishes, thus leaving 1,616 Jamaicans killed.
The Government responded with zones of special operations [ZOSOs], but those who are expecting a sudden reduction in crime are still dreaming. Sexual offences and shootings were also major concerns last year
It was also a very interesting year for INDECOM. Commissioner Terrence Williams was appointed on July 27 to serve a second five-year stint.
Several police and correctional officers were investigated and charged.
For 2018, the prime minister is to exercise his constitutional rights to consult the leader of the opposition and, thereafter, advise the governor general to appoint a chief justice.
With respect to NIDS, the Government needs to do far more in its educational drive to inform the people as to the benefits of it.
Regarding the crime rate, it seems as if there is a need for greater intelligence and a change in police tactics, practice and procedure.
It is hoped that the combined impact of ZOSO, NIDS, additional court rooms, appointment of new judges, improved forensic lab, new police strategies, better intelligence, and increased police pay with better working conditions for all in the justice system will help to significantly reduce crime in 2018.
Keith N. Bishop is an Attorney-at-Law and senior partner in the firm of Bishop & Partners. He may be contacted at email@example.com and by WhatApps at 876-4608231