JIS News

The Ministry of Justice, has focussed on a potpourri of areas since September 2007, aimed at making the system more accessible to all Jamaicans.
To this end Restorative Justice, and measures to combat corruption, were among the areas that took centre stage to complement Prime Minister, Bruce Golding’s quest, to protect and defend the rights of Jamaicans.
Most recently, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, launched a consultation series on Restorative Justice, as part of an effort to open up public discourse about the Restorative Justice Draft Policy. The consultations support recommendations made by the Justice Reform Task Force, to bring the policy to the people before it is finalised. Additionally, the Minister has lauded restorative justice practises, citing them as a “humane and holistic approach to conflict resolution”.
She also explained that the Government considers Restorative Justice the most appropriate concept to complement and support the country’s traditional justice system. In light of this, it was announced that plans are afoot to establish a Community Justice Tribunal, in the inner-city community of Granville, St. James, as that community is targeted to be one of the pilots in a planned Restorative Justice System, to be introduced in the island.
Chief Justice, Zaila McCalla, who addressed the first consultation on the Restorative Justice Draft Policy, emphasised that the justice system should also operate to encourage the process of healing the wounds of victims of crime.
“An avenue must be provided for victims of these crimes to express themselves, and to get answers to some of the most haunting questions – why, why my family? Why did you do this to me? These are questions that must be answered,” Mrs. McCalla argued.
With Cabinet’s approval, plans were made to amend the domestic laws to allow Jamaica to comply with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. According to Minister Lightbourne, the amendment of the laws will be aimed at the prevention and investigation of corruption; the criminalisation of corruption; international cooperation, and asset recovery.
Plans are also underway to use more technological resources in the courts to improve efficiency, and by extension, to enhance the justice system. Miss Lightbourne explained that the judges will be able to sit in their chambers, go to their computer, and fix a date for the cases, as opposed to calling the registry for someone to search through several notebooks.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, approved an additional seven Crown Counsels, to boost the capacity of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, to present criminal cases before the court in a timely and efficient manner.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Paula Llewellyn, also called on witnesses to come forward with their statements, rather than questioning what the authorities are doing to solve a case. This, she said, would create improvements in the justice system, and in the same breath, implored the respective authorities to adopt video link technology, as a primary means of improving the witness protection programme, and making witnesses more available for criminal matters.
Some 23 Justices of the Peace, were sworn into office for the parish of Westmoreland, which increased the number of JPs serving that parish to 300. In addition, training programmes were conducted island-wide to facilitate the training of other Justices of the Peace.
To solidify the Government’s stance of improving the justice system by focussing on training and other areas, Minister Lightbourne said that the criminal justice system had a key role to play in restoring harmony and peace to the Jamaican society.
“There can be no peace without justice,” Senator Lightbourne stated, as she addressed the Third Biennial Jamaican Diaspora Conference, held earlier this year.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet in November 2007, issued drafting instructions for the establishment of an Independent Commission, to investigate the excessive use of force and instances of abuse, by members of the security forces.
Senator Lightbourne said the establishment of this Commission, was a part of the Government’s response to the national outcry over allegations of police excesses, and that it would have powers similar to the Police Public Complaints Authority and more. The Commission will operate in offices in all five police command areas island-wide.
In September, four judges were sworn in to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, by Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Professor Sir Kenneth Hall, at a ceremony at King’s House.
The judges are: Mahadev Dukharan and Gloria Smith, who will serve in the Court of Appeal; while Bertram Morrison and Sarah Thompson-James will serve as Puisne Judges in the Supreme Court. The appointments took effect on September 24. Later in the month, four additional judges were sworn in to higher office by the Governor-General.
Master-in-Chambers at the Supreme Court, Christine Andrea McDonald, was appointed Puisne Judge with effect from September 1, 2007, while Senior Resident Magistrate, Martin Luther Gayle, and Resident Magistrate Marva Angela McDonald-Bishop, were appointed as Puisne Judges with effect from September 17, 2007.
Registrar at the Supreme Court, Audre Whelma Lindo, was appointed Master-in-Chambers to the Supreme Court, with effect from September 1, 2007.
In October, Dennis Lalor; Headley Cunningham; Justice Ransford Langrin; and Shirley Miller were re-appointed as Privy Councillors. Ambassador David Muirhead serves as Senior Member of the Council, while Justice Paul Harrison was appointed to succeed Ambassador Donald Mills.
Through collaboration with Departments such as the Dispute Resolution Foundation and the Justice Training Institute, the Ministry of Justice conducted a number of training exercises for employees in the system.
More than 35 persons were recently trained in Fundamental Issues of Case Flow Management. A one-week workshop, focussing on ‘Capacity Building in Combating Terrorism’, was also conducted to build the human capacity of the criminal justice system, to strengthen the international fight against terrorism.
The Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF), also hosted a workshop entitled ‘Partnership for Peace – A Violence Intervention Programme’ aimed at minimising violent conflicts between individuals. A workshop for arbitrators and training for Justices of the Peace, were among the many other training initiatives undertaken.