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A five-year justice system transformation framework agenda has been prepared and a submission to Cabinet for its approval is being finalised.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, in her contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate on Friday (Feb.13), said that the framework, which included priorities from the wide range of reform recommendations made over the last few years, creates a vision for justice reform and sets out strategic objectives towards achieving that vision.
In addition to providing a five-year focus for the Government of Jamaica, she indicated that the framework will create a set of detailed plans around which international donor partners can base their support. “This will be particularly important as the reform agenda is estimated to cost $6 billion over the five-year period,” the Justice Minister said.
The development of the reform agenda is expected to fulfil several of the prerequisites for the release of a $33 million EURO programme of budget support to the Government of Jamaica. These funds are expected to shore up reforms in the areas of governance, justice and security.
Among the key objectives of the framework Senator Lightbourne told the Senate, is to ensure the fair and timely resolution of cases. “The immediate aim is to provide the courts with the medium and long-term support needed to eliminate the problem of backlogs. By reviewing the structure and organisation of the courts and modernising court processes, the likelihood of repeating past mistakes will be reduced. There are wide-ranging initiatives planned for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which will also have an impact on the pace at which criminal cases are prosecuted,” she stated.
It also aims to improve access to justice, through inter alia, the review and expansion of the existing legal aid system; commissioning of a mobile legal aid clinic that can service communities across the island; and expanding the Ministry’s website to provide wider legal information to the public.
Another objective of the framework is to strengthen the judiciary and workforce, through extensive training and capacity building initiatives, which are being planned for every institution within the justice system, Senator Lightbourne said.
Other objectives include the strengthening of linkages between justice sector institutions; establishing sound court infrastructure; implementing a social component to the delivery of justice; and strengthening public trust and confidence in the justice system.
“With the momentum generated in the last 16 months, we are confident that the improvements planned for the justice system in fiscal year 2009/2010 will be delivered,” Senator Lightbourne told the Senate.
Meanwhile, she informed that the Ministry will be launching significant donor-funded initiatives in the coming financial year. She said that the Canadian Government through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) will be providing technical assistance and financial support to the justice reform process.
“Their Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) programme last year, obtained approval from the Canadian Minister for International Development. This will be in the amount of CAN$18 million over a four-year period,” Senator Lightbourne said.