Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding, in remarking on the stress on Jamaica’s justice system, noted that for last year alone, there were some 345,000 cases listed for the Resident Magistrates Courts. This does not include the numbers listed in the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal. Of the total, some 90 percent involve criminal offences.
Mr. Golding was speaking this morning (May 27) at the start of the Ministry of Justice Third International two-day Conference on restorative and community justice. He said “We have resource constraints as many countries do, but ours is particularly severe and so, over many years, we have not been able to invest and allocate the resources that are sufficient to maintain our justice system at a level that would be adequate to cope with the pressures imposed on it.”
The Conference on restorative and community justice is now underway at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston. It is based on the theme, ‘Transforming individual, family, community and country’ and is designed to train Justices of the Peace, institutional and community leaders in the move to establish Community Justice Tribunals in Jamaica.
Mr. Golding noted that Restorative Justice sees crime as an act not so much against the state but against the individual and the community. The victim becomes the centre of the process; and it shifts the focus of the enquiry from that of asking which law was broken and what punishment should be meted out. The questions it now poses are: who has been harmed, who caused the harm and what the person who caused the harm can do to redress the wrong. “It is a completely different approach and it allows a process that is more rehabilitative,” Mr. Golding said.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding plants a kiss on the cheek of Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, when he arrived at the Ministry of Justice’s Third International Conference on Restorative and Community Justice, held at the Knutsford Court Hotel, in New Kingston, on May 27.
Justice Minister, Senator the Hon. Dorothy Lightbourne, in her remarks noted that traditionally our justice system is one of retribution, pinpointing blame and imposing fines. It does not address the concerns of the victims, the role of the witness or the role of community; and so people feel alienated, and this results in community retaliation and revenge. She said the theme of the conference underscores the Government’s commitment to the empowerment of communities and the advancement of the justice system.
Mr. Golding welcomed the staging of the conference which is being supported by partners, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
He said part of the justice reform programme that the Minister of Justice had been mandated to pursue, is to improve the capacity of our judges, the physical facilities; to introduce technology to make the system more efficient and to develop and enhance the human resources, so that we can expand the capacity to handle matters.
The conference brings together international and local partners to facilitate the cross fertilization of knowledge and skills that are necessary for the establishment of restorative and community justice tribunals.