The Government of Jamaica is undertaking a comprehensive review of the island’s justice system and will, within the next two months, engage an expert in justice sector reform to lead the process. Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Senator A.J. Nicholson, who made the announcement in his contribution to the State of the Nation debate in the Senate on Friday (Jan. 27), said that the appointee, who would hail from a Commonwealth jurisdiction, would chair the transformation team overseeing the review, including the work of the experts, who will be engaged. The review should be completed within nine months, he said.
The terms of reference for the team will be to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the Jamaican justice system and to make recommendations to promote the timely delivery of a high standard of justice for all. The areas involved are: access; cost-efficiency; quality; a multi-door approach; timeliness; transparency and accountability; performance measures; standards and targets; restorative justice; dispute resolution, citizen-centeredness; and delivery points rationalization.
The Attorney General said the move would extend to other relevant issues to ensure the production of the kind of result that would enable people to have confidence in the civil and criminal processes.In the meantime, Senator Nicholson told the chamber that the Ministry would continue pursuing initiatives already underway, while awaiting the findings and recommendations of the review.
These will include following through on the 2001 policy position for the introduction of case management in the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court, which will incorporate the automation of the criminal registry, court rooms and the judges’ chambers; re-engineering and automation of the office of the Defender of Public Prosecutions; regionalisation of prosecution services to strengthen and guide the investigative capacity of the Jamaica Constabulary Force; and the phased introduction of court reporters in the Resident Magistrates’ Courts.
Other measures are: the introduction of evidence by television link to secure the interests of children and other vulnerable witnesses; re-examination of the jury system including computerization of the jury selection process as well as maintaining the momentum in the payment of judgement debts; and the implementation of the National Plan of Action for Child Justice in order to ensure greater security for the island’s children.
The State of the Nation debate commenced in the Senate last Friday, January 20.