The Court Management Services (CMS) made significant strides in enhancing and improving the operations of the island’s courts for the 2011/2012 financial year.
Highlighting the performance of the entity over the period under review, Principal Executive Officer (PEO) at the CMS, Deborah Gardner, notes that a significant achievement was the CMS’ efforts to reduce the huge backlog in Juror payments.
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"The result of this effort has been the payment of $14.5 million in Juror claims that were submitted between 2008 and 2011,” Mrs. Gardner points out, adding that only $1.4 million in Juror claims for that period remain outstanding, due to the placement of inaccurate tax registration number (TRN) on claim forms or failure to affix the TRN on the forms.
She tells JIS News that the CMS also embarked on efforts to upgrade equipment and technology after recognising a significant need for enhanced service delivery.
"These efforts resulted in the Registriesat the Supreme Court being provided with six scanners to assist in their records management activities; and 33 computers, 10 printers and nine photocopiers were purchased and installed at Resident Magistrate’s (RM) Courts,” Mrs. Gardner outlines.
She adds that 100 per cent of courts currently have e-mail accounts and global internet access is available at all RM main courts.
The PEO notes too, that there will be a significant reduction in telephone costs for the courts with the installation of a new telephone system.
This system -Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) – was installed in the third quarter of the 2011/2012 financial year, allowing calls to be made from landlines to Digicel mobile phones, which are in the Courts’ Closed User Group (CUG), and vice versa, free of cost; extension-to-extension dialing between the CMS, Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal; direct inward dialing and direct outward dialing.
This system, Mrs. Gardner points out, was first installed in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court with the CMS later added to the system. The system will later be extended to other Courts.
Another technological improvement was the launch of an improved and upgraded website for the Supreme Court in June 2011.
The purpose of the website, she notes, “is to provide information to the public and create an interface for court users to access relevant information, such as Court lists and judgments. Since April, 650 judgements have been uploaded."
Also during the period, the CMS operationalised six additional Resident Magistrate's posts. This was done in an effort to provide the Courts with additional human resource, to effectively manage case loads. There is now a total of 56 Resident Magistrates.
Training and development of judiciary, magistracy and court administrative staff was also a priority during the period. The CMS co-ordinated, in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice Training Institute, several workshops and training seminars for the Judiciary and the Magistracy. These were facilitated through partnerships with the British High Commission, National Judicial Institute (NJI Canada) and The Office of Federal Judicial Affairs (FJA Canada).
The workshops and seminars focused on a wide range of areas, including:criminal case management; judicial writing and ethics; the treatment of child witnesses in court; improving practices and procedures for sentencing; capacity building in records management and leadership and client services for court administrators.
The PEO affirms that the future looks bright for the CMS, with a continued thrust to grow the entity and improve overall operations at the courts.
"Initiatives are being implemented to improve records management in the Supreme Court and some RM Courts to support improved case flow management; increase access to information with the launch of CMS’ website and re-vamping of Court of Appeal website; and increase public education on court processes and functions,” Mrs. Gardner highlights.
She tells JIS News that for this financial year (2012/2013), the CMS will commence review of the courts organisational structure; do further expansion of night courts; improve security to officers of the courts, in partnership with the Police; and improve overall performance with increased staffing capacity.
The CMS was set up in 2008 by the Government, through the Ministry of Justice, in collaboration with the Public Sector Modernisation Division (PSMD), Cabinet Office.
The entity serves to restructure the institutional framework through which administrative services are provided to the courts and further strengthen judicial independence.
By Kadian Brown, JIS PRO