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Story Highlights

  • The Evidence Amendment Act, passed in May last year, has already been serving to reduce delays in the administration of justice through the country’s legal system.
  • The disclosure protocol, which deals with the stages, content, exemptions to, and forms of disclosure, serves to enhance transparency and accountability in the justice system.
  • The system also allows for reduction in time for retrieval and filing, enabling immediate improvement in productivity, while saving time and money on filing and re-filing.

The Evidence Amendment Act, passed in May last year, has already been serving to reduce delays in the administration of justice through the country’s legal system.

This is according to Chief Justice, Hon. Zaila McCalla, who in an address at the swearing-in of  Puisne Judges at King’s House on January  5, said she expects all participants in the system to double their efforts this year in ensuring timely delivery of services.

“In this new year, it is expected that all participants in our justice system will have a heightened sense of responsibility, to reduce delays in our courts and to save time and expenses of all persons concerned,” she said, citing  judges, lawyers of the prosecution and defence and the police, amongst others.

The Evidence Amendment Act seeks to enhance the efficiency of Jamaica’s justice system, by providing a simpler procedure for the admissibility of computer-generated evidence, and the reports of experts, where the latter is not deemed disputable.

“For example, in the case of a death of a person, there is no need to call someone  to prove that the person is dead or to give other evidence if such can be agreed and it’s not in dispute,” Mrs. McCalla explained.

She said through this legislation,  trials can be much shorter, with no impingement of the fairness of the trial process to the accused.  She further noted that there is now no need for long and unnecessary cross-examinations, “fishing expeditions and showmanship,” which is characterised by some criminal trials.

Meanwhile, the Chief Justice pointed out that in many instances judges and attorneys-at-law have embraced the reform of the disclosure process, which is outlined in a disclosure protocol issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in 2003, leading to the shortening of trials.

The disclosure protocol, which deals with the stages, content, exemptions to, and forms of disclosure, serves to enhance transparency and accountability in the justice system.

“Reforms in these areas cannot assist in the efficiency of the trial process if they remain on paper; they must be implemented and embraced and I am depending, of course, on our judges to see that this is done,” Mrs. McCalla said.

She said a high density filing system, procured through a $48 million contract as part of the justice sector reform programme, has been installed at the Supreme Court registry. She added that certain logistics are still being worked out, however, before the use of the system is implemented.

The high density system will ensure that all the documents within the control of the court are properly filed. It aims to maximise the available square footage at the facility for filing and to increase efficiency.

The system also allows for reduction in time for retrieval and filing, enabling immediate improvement in productivity, while saving time and money on filing and re-filing.