Digital Recording System Being Tested at May Pen RM Court

The Ministry of Justice has taken a major step toward digitising the reporting process in the island’s courts, with the pilot testing of a Liberty Digital Recording System at the May Pen Resident Magistrate Court.
The recording system, which was installed on Monday (April 23) by Canadian suppliers, High Criteria Inc, comprises a Windows-based personal computer (PC), four microphones, and a device to which the microphones can be connected to the PC to facilitate the input of sound. The microphones will be positioned before the judge, the witness, and each of the two attorneys in the courtroom.
Project Manager of the Jamaica Justice System Reform Project, Peter Parchment, told JIS News that the use of digital recording systems will improve the ability of the courts to record proceedings. “The current situation is that we have trained court reporters stationed only at the Supreme Court,” he said.
He noted that it takes about two and a half years to train persons to capture court proceedings using the traditional method and the replication of that model across the island would be very costly, in terms of time and expenditure.
“What we are hoping to accomplish with the testing of a digital recording system within the context of a pilot court site, is to see how best we can demonstrate the ability of a simpler model of recording to see how it will work across the different courts,” Mr. Parchment pointed out.
With the system in place, courtroom audio can be captured onto the hard drive of a PC. This will facilitate more timely and efficient production of transcripts, as well as the production of multiple copies of courtroom sessions, which can be circulated as needed to various parties, including the judge, the crown council and the defence attorney.
The recording technology will complement the Judicial Enforcement System (JEMS), which is already in place at the May Pen and Supreme Courts, as well as other Resident Magistrate Courts. JEMS is designed to simplify the creation and accessing of case records, and is poised to replace the manual creation and storage of case files.
The increased use of technology in the island’s courts is intended to help to accelerate the rate at which cases pass through the system, and is in keeping with the Jamaica Justice System Reform Project. Under this move to comprehensively reform the justice system, May Pen RM Court is being used as a pilot site.
Mr. Parchment explained that “the role of the pilot court site is really to demonstrate and test any best practices that we will need to implement for the way forward as it relates to the reform of the Jamaican justice system.”
“We thought it was very important to have a pilot in place to allow us to. introduce some of the immediately achievable tasks,” he added.
Within the context of the pilot programme, it is anticipated that any constraints towards implementing the programme to achieve increased efficiency in the courts, will be addressed, before the programme is rolled out across the island.
The May Pen RM Court was selected as the pilot court because it deals with a variety of case types such as civil, criminal, traffic, and coroners matters, among others. Access to the JEMS software was also a consideration in determining the pilot court, as the software is not yet widely distributed across the courts.
Additionally, Mr. Parchment revealed that at the May Pen Court, it is possible to introduce a community-based user committee, a feature which will be studied for replication in other courts. He also indicated that the staff displayed a willingness and ability to incorporate the changes that will be introduced.
As the pilot site for the reform process, the court and its users will be the first beneficiaries of a wide-range of enhancements. In addition to the expansion in the use of court technology, there will also be improvements to the physical state of the courthouse as well as upgrading of the filing system.
The pilot site forms a major element of the data sources being considered by the Jamaica Justice System Reform Task Force (JJSRTF). Since its instatement in November 2006, the task force has been reviewing the justice system through research undertaken by the Canadian Advisory Committee, written submissions from citizens, as well as a series of 22 public consultations across the island.
The information that is gathered from the pilot testing of the court will be reviewed by JJSRTF, the Ministry of Justice and the Public Sector Reform Unit of the Cabinet Office. “We anticipate that between now and the end of June, when the Jamaica Justice Reform project is scheduled to complete the review phase, we will see whether or not, whatever was demonstrated in the pilot court site at the May Pen RM Court will actually work across the island as well,” Mr. Parchment said.

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