Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, has given the government’s commitment to improving the justice system, even in a climate of resource constraints.
He said that the move may not involve large outlays of capital expenditure, “but involve brainwork, looking at the system that we have, how can we improve it, what are the issues that we can address through legislation, through better organisation, and what issues we have to change by a culture change of how we conduct ourselves in the legal system."
Senator Golding, who was addressing the official handing over of the reconstructed Balaclava Courthouse in St. Elizabeth on May 9, said that the Ministry is pursuing various legislative reforms to address the backlog of court cases and improve the effectiveness of the justice system.
Among these are: the Committal Proceedings Bill, which is aimed at speeding up court hearings; increasing the jurisdiction of Lay Magistrates to deal with minor criminal and civil matters; and amending the Evidence Act to facilitate the admission of video recorded evidence at trial, thereby protecting vulnerable witnesses such as children.
He stated that the rebuilding of the Balaclava Courthouse facility is a signal of the government’s commitment to improving the access of Jamaicans to justice, and to putting a sound court infrastructure in place.
He said that since the closure in 2004, residents of Balaclava and surrounding areas have been utilizing court facilities in Santa Cruz and Black River, which have caused a backlog of cases, and the reopening of the facility should reverse that situation.
The courthouse, which was rebuilt at a cost of $60.4 million, comprises: one courtroom with jury facilities; one petty session court; two judges chambers; a cashier station; clerk of court office; two counselling rooms.
It also entails an attorney interview room; attorney/client briefing room; detainee holding area; sick Bay; staff lunch room with kitchenette; public waiting area and parking facilities for users of the court.
By Bryan Miller, JIS Reporter