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JIS News

Director of the Victim Support Unit (VSU) in the Ministry of Justice, Rev. Osbourne Bailey is calling on citizens to actively participate in the development of the Victims’ Charter. “We see the Victims’ Charter as definitely moving towards revolutionizing the concept of justice in this country,” Rev. Bailey told JIS News.
The Ministry of Justice launched the draft Victims’ Charter on July 18 and the primary objective of introducing the Charter is to make victims and their rights more central to the justice process.
Copies were made available to communities and the document may also be found on the Ministry’s website at www.moj.gov.jm.
“I encourage members of the public, now that it is out there before them, to make comments on it and to.launch vigorous debates to ensure that we have a solid Charter,” Rev. Bailey said.
While the VSU, which has existed since 1998, provides emotional and court support, crisis management interventions and a comprehensive range of other services for victims of crime, there is much need for a more victim-sensitive system.
According to Rev. Bailey, “there is a large imbalance in the justice system as it relates to the opportunities and rights of the accused, compared to the opportunities and rights of the victims”.
He noted that the daily playing out of this imbalance was one of the greatest challenges the unit faces, and emphasized that, “it has to be addressed through . legislative changes, which are coming in the Victims’ Charter”.
Rev. Bailey added that such legislation should deal with how victims are treated at every point in the justice system. These points include Police Stations, Courts, Government Agencies, hospitals, and others.Adjustments are warranted in the way the public perceived victims in some instances, he said, as it added more grief to their situation.
When the Charter comes on stream fully, “it will broaden the scope of what is considered to be the rights victims have”, said the Reverend.
It is expected to lay the groundwork for victim impact statements to be taken. It is also possible that victims will have a say, when offenders are going on probation, as well as on the matter of compensation.
In the meantime, the Justice Ministry is currently conducting public consultation sessions in parts of the island, to facilitate national participation in the development of the Charter.
To date, sessions have been held in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Savanna-la-Mar.
Senior Communications Officer in the Ministry, Michael Cohen has reported that participants have been expressing major concern for children and rape victims.
There has been a “call for more humane treatment of rape victims during trial from both the bench and defence lawyers,” Mr. Cohen told JIS News. He further informed that citizens have made recommendations for a Code of Conduct for officers of the court, in order to facilitate greater involvement of victims in cases.
In addition to attending the consultation sessions, persons may make their contributions through written submissions to: The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, 7th Floor, NCB North Tower, 2 Oxford Road, Kingston 5. E-mails to webmaster@moj.gov.jm or customerservice@moj.gov.jm will also be accepted. The Ministry’s toll free customer service line, 1-888-4-JUSTICE, may be contacted for assistance.
Citing the annual tally of violent crimes in the country and the growing number of direct victims of these crimes, Rev. Bailey emphasized the need for national participation in the formulation of the charter.
“Anything on paper, designed to develop and give these people a voice and to strengthen the support base for them.the whole country needs to rally behind it and give it full support,” he said.