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Manager for the Trafficking in Persons Unit in the Ministry of Justice, Chenee Russell (right), listens attentively to a concerned resident of Steer Town in St. Ann, during a Justice Fair hosted in the community by the Legal Aid Council March 22
Photo: Nickieta Sterling

Story Highlights

  • Residents of Steer Town in St. Ann benefited from free legal services, consultation and information, which were provided by several government agencies during a Justice Fair hosted in the community by the Legal Aid Council on March 22.
  • Council representatives say the fair formed a crucial part of the entity’s social-intervention strategies for volatile communities, through the provision of vital services to citizens.
  • Among the State agencies partnering on the engagement were departments in the Justice Ministry, including the Victim Services Division and National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons (NATFATIP); and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA), Office of the Public Defender, and National Housing Trust (NHT).

Residents of Steer Town in St. Ann benefited from free legal services, consultation and information, which were provided by several government agencies during a Justice Fair hosted in the community by the Legal Aid Council on March 22.

Council representatives say the fair formed a crucial part of the entity’s social-intervention strategies for volatile communities, through the provision of vital services to citizens.

Among the State agencies partnering on the engagement were departments in the Justice Ministry, including the Victim Services Division and National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons (NATFATIP); and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA), Office of the Public Defender, and National Housing Trust (NHT).

Legal Consultant at the Council, Shara-Kay Dacres-Moore, told JIS News that the agency identified the need for the provision of its services in Steer Town community and initiated steps to extend these to the residents.

Legal Consultant at the Legal Aid Council, Shara-Kay Dacres-Moore (right), shares information with a resident of Steer Town, St. Ann, during a Justice Fair hosted in the community by the agency on March 22.
Nickieta Sterling. Photos

 

“We realise that persons have limitations and sometimes they are not able to access this type of service… so we [provided] it to them,” she said.

She further indicated that the provisions, which were provided free of cost, are intended to empower the citizens and strengthen community relations.

Mrs. Moore, who described the fair as an overwhelming success, said she was pleased with the number of residents turning out to take advantage of the services provided.

“The response was great. We had a good turnout and people were really grateful for the services offered,” Mrs. Moore pointed out.

She noted that several persons showed keen interest in having their criminal records expunged, adding that residents were educated on the process and procedures of this exercise.

“Expungement was one of the main concerns of the residents. A lot of persons have criminal records and need to have these expunged. So a lot of persons [sought to] access that service,” Ms. Dacres-Moore further indicated.

Meanwhile, Acting Manager of the Justice Ministry’s Victim Services Division in St. Ann, Bernita Black, noted that the fair provided an opportunity to sensitise the residents of Steer Town about the social and psychological impact of crime.

Acting Manager of the Ministry of Justice’s Victim Services Division in St. Ann, Bernita Black (right), shares information about the agency’s services with a resident of Steer Town, St. Ann. during a Justice Fair hosted in the community by the Legal Aid Council on March 22.

 

“It is understood that crime is everywhere, and wherever a crime is committed, there is always a victim. We have seen that in the inner parts of the rural areas, victims do not readily come out into the town. So we saw it fit to bring it to where the victims are,” she said.

Ms. Black pointed out that crimes committed against children were also a common concern among the residents.

“One of the main concerns was how can victim services assist [the affected] children, as also children displaying behavioural issues,” she further indicated.

For her part, Manager of the Ministry’s Trafficking in Persons Unit, Chenee Russell, said sensitization on human trafficking is relevant to efforts at curtailing it.

As such, she said the event was used to heighten residents’ awareness about the challenges, dangers and threats this illicit act poses, while encouraging them to speak out against its occurrence in Jamaica.

Ms. Russell said persons were given brochures and other literature outlining this information and ways to address the matter, including ways in which they can report it to the Unit.

“We want persons to educate themselves about this crime [because] the more you know, is the more you are able to suspect something that is happening, are able to [detect] a human trafficker, [and] identify a victim of trafficking, because a lot of the time, these cases are not reported,” she added.

In the meantime, residents had high praises for the fair’s staging, noting that it will have a positive impact on Steer Town.

Melinda McIntosh of Dam Head said she was pleased with the extent of services she was able to access, noting that the information garnered was impactful.

“I found out some information about my rights, about NHT, about the Legal Aid Council and, to be honest, it was really good,” she stated.

Gloria Harrison, who recently relocated to Steer Town, told JIS News that she was happy to have benefited from the fair, as she gained a wealth of knowledge on the roles and functions of a number of government agencies.

“I am happy that the Legal Aid Council was here today. I got to hear information about, among other things, missing children and how to go about [dealing with] it, she stated.

The Legal Aid Council was established to provide services to members of the public who have been charged with criminal offences and are unable to afford private legal representation.