Feature
Acting Chief Parish Judge for St. Andrew, His Honour Chester Crooks (left), presents Justice of the Peace (JP) for Kingston, Lt. Col (Ret’d) Euken Mills, with his trophy for achieving the highest mark during a lay magistrates training programme which was conducted by the Justice Ministry for 40 Corporate Area JPs earlier this year. The presentation was made during the graduation ceremony at the Medallion Hall Hotel in St. Andrew on December 20.
Photo: Contributed

Story Highlights

  • Justice of the Peace (JP) for Kingston, Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Euken Mills, believes specialised training which he and colleague JPs have received to serve as a lay magistrates, will greatly enable them to assist in reducing the backlog of cases in the courts.
  • He is one of 40 JPs from Kingston and St. Andrew who have trained in the Justice Ministry’s ongoing effort, through the Justice Training Institute (JTI), to boost the capacity of the lay magistrates’ courts by, among other things, strengthening the JPs’ capabilities to improve service delivery in their communities.
  • The training programme for the Corporate Area JPs, administered in May, was facilitated by retired High Court Judge, Justice Marva McIntosh. A graduation ceremony was held for the participants at the Medallion Hall Hotel in St. Andrew on December 20.

Justice of the Peace (JP) for Kingston, Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Euken Mills, believes specialised training which he and colleague JPs have received to serve as a lay magistrates, will greatly enable them to assist in reducing the backlog of cases in the courts.

He is one of 40 JPs from Kingston and St. Andrew who have trained in the Justice Ministry’s ongoing effort, through the Justice Training Institute (JTI), to boost the capacity of the lay magistrates’ courts by, among other things, strengthening the JPs’ capabilities to improve service delivery in their communities.

The training programme for the Corporate Area JPs, administered in May, was facilitated by retired High Court Judge, Justice Marva McIntosh. A graduation ceremony was held for the participants at the Medallion Hall Hotel in St. Andrew on December 20.

“We are given a mandate that we need to focus on reducing the backlog. The knowledge gained will obviously help [us] in that regard,” Col. Mills tells JIS News.

That knowledge was gained through the wide-ranging topics covered during the training. These included: judicial conduct; ethics; court procedures and rules; the trial process; evidence; the rules of admissibility; and sentencing.

Other subject areas focused on: how to conduct one’s self while on the bench; taking guidance from persons who are better trained and experts in specific areas; and how to administer justice impartially.

Col. Mills, who averaged the highest mark – 93.5 per cent – at the end of the training, describes Justice McIntosh as “excellent facilitator”, noting that her seamless delivery of the subject areas will ensure that everything learnt “will [remain] indelibly etched in [our] minds”.

Meanwhile, St. Andrew JP, Daniel Dawes, who received the second highest mark – 93 per cent – says the training will not only assist in reducing the backlog but also enable the JPs to deliver “unbiased justice to Jamaicans”.

Mr. Dawes also supports the recent call by Justice Minister, Hon. Delroy Chuck, for JPs operating contrary to established guidelines and rules to be investigated, in order to safeguard the vocation’s integrity.

Meanwhile, Mr. Chuck, in his remarks at the graduation, advised of plans to significantly increase the range of matters over which JPs serving as Lay Magistrates can preside.

This is part of the overarching strategy targeting a reduction in the backlog of court cases.

“It is important that you understand that [your current] limited jurisdiction is, in no way, a reflection of the enormity of your role, responsibility and importance in the advancement of justice,” he said.

The Ministry’s Chief Technical Director, Grace Ann Stewart, said the latest cohort of participants is among 123 undergoing lay magistrates training since January.

“This represents the forward thrust of the Ministry as it advances the new face of justice by improving access to justice services and increasing the efficiency of the courts,” she said.

Acting Chief Parish Judge for St. Andrew, His Honour Chester Crooks, who also spoke at the graduation, said JPs play a critical role in the justice system.

“You are the first point of contact or sometimes the only point of contact that some of our citizens will have with the justice system. An even greater burden and duty is placed on Justices of the Peace,” he said.

Mr. Crooks encouraged the graduates to familiarise themselves with the Code of Conduct for JPs, which is in the first schedule of the Justice of the Peace Act, 2018.

“We cannot have JPs sitting as judicial officers when we have other members out on the street collecting money to sign documents. Such practices have to be stopped and cannot be endorsed,” he emphasised.