JIS News

By September this year, several new posts will be created for Court Reporters in the Resident Magistrate Courts islandwide, to allow for a smoother flowing of proceedings and a decline in the backlog of cases.
With the expected increase in Court Reporters, the Justice Training Institute (JTI) is currently seeking to become registered as a tertiary level institution by the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ), to be followed by an international accreditation of its court-reporting programme by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) in the United States.
Director of Training and Academic Affairs at the JTI, Edward Shakes, tells JIS News that a team from the UCJ will visit on February 24, and will examine the premises and procedures before arriving at a decision.
“I expect that will go through smoothly. They will look at our sustainability, such as our financing and of course that is okay, because we are funded by the Government through the Consolidated Fund. They will also look at the facilities here such as the classroom, work processes, the quality of the faculty as well as speak to some past and current students,” he points out.
Mr. Shakes says he is confident that the JTI will be granted tertiary level status, and that the institution would be making an application for three of their main programmes to be accredited.
The three programmes, he informs, will be the certificate programme for Court Reporters, which has a two-year duration; a year-long certificate in Legal Administration; and a certificate in Criminal Justice Studies.
In addition, he says the Institute is also taking note of the fact that the certificate in Court Reporting now being offered is tied with the same standards of what is offered in the United States as an Associate degree. “In fact, the two-year programme does meet the requirement of an associate degree or a diploma, and we expect that it is coming out at over 60 credits, so we will be considering that in the future. Persons coming through the progrmme will be able to go into a degree programme in court reporting that is currently offered in United States,” he tells JIS News.
Mr. Shakes informs that the Institute is currently having discussions with the National Court Reporting Association in the United States, which is the international bench mark for court reporting as far as standards is concerned, with a view for partnership.
“In March, we are expecting an expert in that area to visit with us for about a week and that person is a Director of the National Court Reporting Association. She will be looking at our programme and will also be providing some training for our lecturers and also for court reporters in the Supreme Court while she is here,” he says.
In addition to the national accreditation that the Institute is seeking with the UCJ, Mr. Shakes says they will also be seeking international accreditation through the NCRA.
Currently, the institute has enrolled close to some 80 persons, 22 of whom are pursuing the Court Reporting programme, and will graduate in August. As such, the institute is currently recruiting new students.
Although the majority of the students are now employed in the Justice system in various positions, such as administrators and clerks in the courts, and also within branches of the Correctional Service and the Police force, he stresses that the programmes are open to others.
“We feel that some of the programmes, in particular the court reporting programme, can attract school leavers who want to pursue a career in that area and as such, all programmes are open to persons, whether or not you are employed in the Justice system,” Mr. Shakes explains.
The Institute is also offering its programmes to other English speaking Caribbean islands, he adds, noting that in the past, the JTI has provided training for persons outside Jamaica, the Caribbean in particular, and even as far away as Africa.
“We have since made approaches to the Chief Justices of the various territories with regards to recruiting students for our September intake,” he points out, adding that at this time, the institution is probably the only one in the Caribbean offering training in Court Reporting.
With the harmonization of the judicial system through the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Mr. Shakes says persons coming for training in Jamaica will be pursuing similar processes and competences that they will need and can use in their own territory.
Some of the countries being targeted for recruits for this school year include Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, the eastern Caribbean islands and the Bahamas.
He tells JIS News that one of the issues with the courts currently, is the slowness by which cases move and this partly results from Resident Magistrates having to take their own notes.
“With the court reporting you have an individual who is taking notes and in fact, this is done in what is called “real time”, so as the notes are taken the Judge has a monitor that he/she can read what is happening and therefore it can speed-up the whole process. At the end of the day, the Court Reporter will be able to transcribe what has been said in the court and prepare a report for the Judge, so this will speed-up the whole process,” he explains.
Currently, Court Reporters only work in the Supreme Court, but following the transition to Resident Magistrate Courts, Mr. Shakes says, there will be an increased demand for this profession. “The students who are now in training, we expect that some of them will be filling some of those vacancies,” he points out.
Persons who are currently in the programme, he adds, make a very small contribution to the economic cost of training. “They pay no more than about 5 per cent of the real cost, but they have to enter into a bond to work with government, so there is almost a job guarantee for them as well as they are receiving high level training at very minimal cost,” he says.
To qualify for the programme, participants need to have a minimum of four CXC or GCE equivalent, with English Language being compulsory.