Full Participation of Citizens in Justice Reform Process – Senator Nicholson

Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Senator A.J. Nicholson has said that the review of the justice system is being carried out with the full participation of the public so as to engage a wide cross section of the society in the process.
While addressing the Upper House today (March 22), he said that the Ministry was committed to building a future justice system that could meet the reasonable expectations of the people.
“The building blocks of that justice system are being laid by Jamaicans including those who are poor, powerless and marginalised. As we know, the cry for justice has been louder and more persistent from poor Jamaicans,” said Senator Nicholson.
He also informed that the design of the review programme of the justice system was based on three pillars of systematic change, which include, the sharing of expertise and experience; participatory process; and capacity development.
“The Jamaican Justice System Reform Task Force was established to provide overall guidance and direction for the design of the programme and preparation of the modernization plan, which will be its final report,” he informed.
The Attorney General added that there were a number of components informing the Government’s approach to the review. “Firstly we have created a review structure that actively engages all key stakeholders and the public.four regional working groups have been established with representation from key justice system stakeholders such as the judiciary, the private and public bar, civil society and the public,” he said.
The Justice Minister also informed that the regional working groups were assisting the Task Force in the review and reform by identifying regional problems, challenges and opportunities in the justice system, and identifying viable solutions or suggestions for reform.
The regional working groups also play a key role in the mobilization of the public for the series of consultations that are taking place across the island.
Some 22 consultations will be held across the 14 parishes. So far five consultations have been held in Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Ann, St. Catherine, and St. Thomas.
In addition to the consultations, 11 focus group discussions have been planned, nine of which have been held with key stakeholders such as Victim Support Workers, the police, the church, probation officers and Lay Magistrates.
Senator Nicholson informed that the second phase of the review of the justice system includes a research programme.
“We have put in place a research programme, which includes undertaking surveys and soliciting option papers from stakeholders. Seven major research papers and 22 issue papers, some of which have been completed, are being prepared in substantial areas of the justice system,” he elaborated.
The research the Minister said would “examine and make recommendations in areas such as alternative dispute resolution, case flow management systems, restorative justice, and improving access to justice, promoting civil liberties culture, court management and court administration and the public and justice system.”
“The issue paper covers a wide range of topics such as witness assistance and protection, diversion in criminal matters, jury reform, plea bargain, sentencing practices, codes of conduct, judicial appointments process, the children’s court proceedings, and adjournment practices reform,” he continued.
He advised colleague Senators that “it is clear from the active engagement of the wide cross section of Jamaicans so far, that there are some common concerns about the justice system that are shared across the board”.
“Jamaicans are concerned about lack of consistency in sentencing for similar offences. There is a recurring theme about how people and particularly our less privileged citizens are treated by court staff, about repeat offenders and the difficulties being experienced by Jamaicans understanding the language of the court,” said Mr. Nicholson.
He stressed that these were some of the issues with which Jamaicans were preoccupied and that any future justice system must address these in a fundamental and sustainable manner.”

JIS Social