the shock discovery in 2021 that a number of plaintiffs in criminal cases had been released from prison before their appeals were heard on account of outstanding transcripts and records of appeal, the Court of Appeal is reporting improved performance for 2022.
President Justice Patrick Brooks, in the foreword of the annual reports of the Court of Appeal for the years 2021 and 2022, which were tabled in the House of Representatives this week, said although there are “still some challenges in terms of the ingrained delays with transcripts, records of appeal, and reserved judgments, the figures show that progress is being made in all those areas”.
For 2022, the Appeal Court said it had a clearance rate of 111.69 per cent, indicating that for every 10 newly filed appeals, approximately 11 were determined. This, it said, is a significant improvement of 39.97 percentage points over 2021 when a clearance rate of 71.72 per cent was recorded.
According to the report, the court also had an overall judgment delivery rate of 449.05 per cent for 2022, which suggests that for every 10 newly reserved judgments roughly 45 were delivered. It said the rate recorded in 2022 showed a substantial increase of 88.67 percentage points over 2021.
In the meantime, the report said there has been an 80 per cent decrease in the judgments that are outstanding for the year 2019, while the number outstanding for the years 2020 and 2021 was reduced by 46.15 per cent and 63.15 per cent, respectively. It said at the end of 2022, the number of judgments that were outstanding between 2019 and 2021 saw an overall decrease of 60.71 per cent.
According to Justice Brooks, the figures are worth celebrating.
As it relates to the timeline for judgment deliveries, the court said for 2022, of the number of matters determined in court, 66.75 per cent were determined within six months of hearing. It said of the matters which were determined within six months, 63.67 per cent were determined on the same day of hearing, 88.76 per cent within a week of hearing, and 95.88 per cent were determined within three months of hearing.
At the end of 2022, there was a total 1,844 appeals pending. However, after taking into account the 170 criminal matters awaiting transcripts and the 482 civil appeals awaiting certified records of proceeding, the “true” pending figure at the close of 2022 was 1,192.
The report noted that, by comparison, at the end of 2021 the total number of pending appeals was 1,873, of which 251 were awaiting transcripts and 449 were awaiting certified records of proceedings, thereby making the “true” pending figure 1,173.
In the 2021 report, Justice Brooks, in taking note of the repercussions the long delays in the production of transcripts of criminal trials had on the system, said, “There promises to be more challenges to convictions and sentences along these lines.”