The Justice Ministry hopes to complete expansion of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, and the Offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), between now and the next financial year, portfolio Minister and Attorney General, Hon. Dorothy Lightbourne, has said.
This undertaking forms part of the proposed Justice Square complex to be established at the former National Commercial Bank (NCB) building at 52-54 King Street, downtown Kingston, which will also house the newly created Court Management Service (CMS). The building, which was acquired at a cost of $128 million, comprises upwards of 50,000 square feet of office space, covering three floors, and a basement, occupying over 10,000 square feet of land.
The establishment of Justice Square is part of the administration’s efforts to reform the judicial system, through expansion of court facilities, and increasing the complement of Judges and Resident Magistrates.
Speaking at a Jamaicans for Justice /Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (JFJ/PSOJ) public forum on justice reform, at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston, on November 4, Senator Lightbourne informed that the Ministry has “settled on the architectural component.”
She pointed out that they were “in the process” of tendering for a contractor to undertake the work necessary to retrofit the facility. This exercise is expected to entail the installation of court rooms, judges’ chambers, interview rooms, jury rooms, holding areas, and an expanded Registry for the Supreme Court. These will form the first two phases of the project.
“We didn’t have enough funds to do the whole building, so we’re going to do the basement, the ground floor, and the first floor. It is expected to be ready by March 2010,” Senator Lightbourne assured.
Justice Minister and Attorney General, Senator the Hon. Dorothy Lightbourme (right), confers with Chief Justice, Hon. Zaila McCalla, O.J., during the Jamaicans for Justice/Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (JFJ/PSOJ) public forum on justice reform, held at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston, on November 4. Both women were part of a panel of speakers, which included Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Ms. Paula Llewellyn.
Completion of Justice Square is expected to facilitate the appointment of additional judges to the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, which is contingent on the availability of space to accommodate these persons.
Senator Lightbourne explained that as part of efforts to effect timely resolution of the current backlog of cases, particularly in the High Courts, the Judicature (Supreme Court) Act and the Judicature (Appellate Jurisdiction) Act had been amended in the House of Representatives, to facilitate the appointment of additional judges.
“These amendments make it possible for an additional 16 judges to be appointed to the Supreme Court and an additional six judges to the Court of Appeal. The amendments also make it possible to appoint three additional Masters in Chambers, bringing our complement to four,” the Attorney General outlined.
Regarding the Office of the DPP, Senator Lightbourne informed that the Ministry sought and obtained approval for an increase in the number of prosecutors by12. She disclosed that, to date, seven additional prosecutors have been recruited, while eight former prosecutors have been engaged to assist in the reduction of the backlog of files in that office, as well as in the prosecution of cases.
On the Court Management Service, Senator Lightbourne advised that this unit will afford the Chief Justice, “greater independence and control over the management and administration of the courts,” adding that it “is expected to come on stream with the establishment of Justice Square.”
“Already, training of critical staff has begun. Through our donor partners and, in particular, with the support of the British Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), we have begun the implementation of case management in criminal cases. We are grateful for their support of approximately