The Senate, on Thursday, December 3, passed two pieces of legislation aimed at effecting reforms within the justice system.
These are the Judicature (Resident Magistrate’s) (Amendment and Change of Name) Act 2015 and the Judicature (Supreme Court) (Amendment) Act.
Piloting the Bills, Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, said the Judicature (Supreme Court) (Amendment) Act seeks to establish a strategic framework for the administrative arm of the courts.
To this end, the Bill will facilitate the establishment of a Court Administration Division, which will replace the Court Management Services, which was initially established by administrative arrangement in 2010.
“This is to secure the dependence of the judiciary and to provide the overall court system with adequate administrative support,” Senator Golding stated.
The Bill also provides for the appointment of a Director of Court Administrator, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Division; the appointment of an Executive Legal Officer to the Chief Justice; and establishing a governance framework for the Court Administrative Division, including the appointment of an advisory board.
“We feel (this) will assist significantly in providing ….a strong and robust administrative support structure for the Chief Justice in that very important aspect of the Chief Justice’s function, which is the running and management of the courts,” Senator Golding said.
The Judicature (Resident Magistrate’s) (Amendment and Change of Name) Act will provide for several changes to the Principal Act, in particular, it changes the name of these courts from Resident Magistrate’s to Parish Courts.
“It changes the styling of Resident Magistrates to Judges of the Parish Court; it establishes the new offices of a Chief Judge of the Parish Court and an Executive Legal Officer to the Chief Judge of the Parish Court,” Senator Golding stated.
The legislation also increases the number of years of qualification for the appointment of a judge to the Parish Courts; it removes the requirement for residency in the parish to which they are assigned; provides for immunity from suits in like manner as is provided to judges of the senior courts; and it makes provision for the recording of notes of evidence of proceedings in courts by electronic or other means.
In his comments, Senator Arthur Williams noted that the Bills “will assist in more effective administration of justice in Jamaica.”
For her part, Government Senator, Sophia Fraser Binns, noted that immunity provided for under the Bills is important.
“This is important because it adds to the thinking and the practice of security and gives an additional confidence to our Parish Judges so that they know that in executing their jobs, they can’t be sued in their personal capacity. This is a provision that must be commended and I give it my full support,” she stated.
The pieces of legislation will be sent to the House of Representatives for its support and approval.