- The Ministry of Justice will be expanding mobile justice services to members of the disabled community and the elderly with the addition of two specially retrofitted units.
- This is in keeping with the Ministry’s thrust to facilitate access for all citizens through enhanced service delivery.
- The units, valued Can$420,000, each seat 14 persons and comprise two enclosed office compartments furnished with a desk and three seats. Each vehicle has also been retrofitted with a lift to provide access for persons in wheelchairs.
The Ministry of Justice will be expanding mobile justice services to members of the disabled community and the elderly with the addition of two specially retrofitted units.
This is in keeping with the Ministry’s thrust to facilitate access for all citizens through enhanced service delivery.
The units, valued Can$420,000, each seat 14 persons and comprise two enclosed office compartments furnished with a desk and three seats. Each vehicle has also been retrofitted with a lift to provide access for persons in wheelchairs.
Other features include Wi-Fi access, air-condition units, generators, electrical outlets, microphone systems, television monitors, DVD players and refrigerators. Additionally, each unit is equipped with a wheelchair.
The units were funded by the Canadian Government through the Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) programme.
The vehicles, which bring the total number in operation to three, were officially handed over during a ceremony in the Ministry’s car park on Constant Spring Road in Kingston, on Wednesday (January 29).
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Delroy Chuck, who spoke, said the units will assist in boosting service delivery, particularly in rural and underserved communities islandwide.
“We want to ensure that our people enjoy their rights and freedoms. These buses will not only offer legal services but also information on [persons’] constitutional rights and freedoms. It is important that people know their rights,” he emphasised.
Noting several reports by the executing agency, the Legal Aid Council, Minister Chuck said some 4,124 persons received assistance through the Mobile Justice Unit since 2017.
Additionally, he said during the 2018/19 fiscal year, approximately 100 communities were visited, adding that of the 1,447 persons who were served, 849 requested legal services.
A breakdown of the category of matters dealt with showed that 174 were crime-related; 381 were civil issues; 105 – divorces, 176 – expungement; and 13 were in relation to counselling/ mental illness.
Mr. Chuck said about 68 communities have been visited, to date, for the 2019/20 fiscal year, adding that “with the additional buses, it could be many more”.
“We want the people of Jamaica to be informed [and] empowered; It is important that every Jamaican has access to justice services,” he emphasised.
In her remarks, Canada’s High Commissioner to Jamaica, Her Excellency Laurie Peters, said the people of her country are pleased to maintain the partnership with the Government of Jamaica to develop a “first-class justice system”.
“We know that this type of mobile service works. These buses will become vehicles of empowerment [as the] features [will] enable that. Unlimited access to justice is at the core of this initiative and the gift of legal empowerment,” she added.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative for Jamaica, Denise Antonio, who also spoke, welcomed work under the initiative, which, she noted, is consistent with the UNDP’s commitment to advancing human rights for all.
“The buses will assist in targeting underserved rural [and] urban communities and will, consequently, result in improved access to men, women and youth who would have been potentially excluded from access to justice services,” she pointed out.
The Legal Aid Mobile Unit programme forms part of the Government’s strategic priority to honour the rule of law and provide timely justice outcomes. The service, which commenced in January 2017, provides free consultation and advice.
The JUST Programme is designed to contribute to the progressive strengthening of Jamaica’s justice system through technical legal assistance, capacity building and institutional support.
The project is being implemented by the Government of Jamaica with support from the Canadian Government and UNDP, among other partners.