Ocho Rios courthouse abandoned

The dilapidated Ocho Rios Court House has been abandoned by the authorities and all cases transferred to the St. Ann’s Bay court.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice confirmed last Friday that the court house was abandoned. He said the building which was constructed in 1890 has been declared uninhabitable and will no longer be used for the holding of courts, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.

The spokesman further said that all cases prosecuted in the Ocho Rios area will be tried in St. Ann’s Bay court until a more suitable location is found and a new court building constructed.

For several months, attorneys and members of the public have complained about the inconvenience they had to endure when attending court in Ocho Rios, especially when there is heavy rainfall.

They complained that the premises is subject to frequent flooding and that the building is unsafe as well as too small to accommodate the number of persons attending court. The 115-year-old building has been falling apart since 1996 when the entire front section, including an upper staircase and balcony collapsed, injuring a number of people. Despite undergoing a number of attempts to repair it, the building remains unsafe.

Prominent St. Ann attorney-at-law Ernest Smith said the best thing the Ministry of Justice could have done was to abandon the building.

Mr. Smith pointed out that the two staircases leading to the upper floor appeared about to collapse and some sections of the flooring were falling apart.

Even if the building was repaired, the flooding problem would still exist, Mr. Smith said. The centre of Ocho Rios was built in a swampy area that is subject to a relatively high annual rainfall.

Mr. Smith suggested that the Ministry of Justice construct a large court building in the area to accommodate court matters for both Ocho Rios and the St. Ann’s Bay area.

In the meantime, the spokesman from the Ministry said funds have been identified by the government for the construction of a new courthouse, but that there was some difficulty in finding suitable land on which to construct the building.

When contacted about the situation in Ocho Rios, president of the Association of Resident Magistrates’ of Jamaica, Mrs. Marlene Malahoo-Forte said that she was not aware of the closure of the court building but knew quite well about the poor conditions that existed there.

Mrs. Malahoo-Forte said the executive of the association will be meeting soon and that the matter will probably be discussed