Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, has hailed the development of the Witness Care Strategy and Action Plan, noting that it will encourage greater participation by members of the public in the justice system.
He said that the majority of Jamaican witnesses have a problem in coming forward and making court appearances to assist with criminal cases.
“We do have several problems dealing with witnesses. We have a problem in Jamaica of non-attendance of witnesses. Fear is oftentimes the problem,” Minister Chuck said.
“Witnesses feel that they are not important in the process… . I hope that this witness care manual will encourage and really comfort the witnesses,” he added.
Minister Chuck was addressing a ceremony for the handover of the manual held at the Ministry’s Constant Spring Road offices on Wednesday (October 28).
The document is the product of a 2019 Witness Care and Protection Conference, and is geared at creating a more comprehensive, integrated and people-centred approach to the treatment in the justice system of witnesses and vulnerable victims.
It was made possible under the Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) project implemented by the Government of Jamaica, through the Ministry of Justice’s Justice Reform Implementation Unit, with support from Canada’s Department of Justice and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Paula Llewellyn, in her remarks at the handover ceremony, said it is important for witnesses to remain engaged and feel validated by the administration of justice.
“Witness care is the great companion to a successful investigation, a successful prosecution and a successful defence. Witness care ensures that potential witnesses remain engaged throughout the process from the commission of the crime, to the investigation, right through to the end of the trial process,” she noted.
The DPP said she is privileged, as a prosecutor for over 30 years, to have met some very courageous witnesses “as without courageous witness you have no case”.
“And, if you have no case and you are not able to prove a matter, then the confidence of the public will dip and not even a politically charismatic person can cause that confidence to come up to where we want it to be,” she argued.
For her part, Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica, Her Excellency Laurie Peters, noted that the Witness Care Strategy and Action Plan is the first of its kind in Jamaica, and along with a Multi-Agency Protocol for Child Justice, reflects a model for justice policy, which is gender-responsive, people-centred, trauma informed and rights oriented”.
“These strategies exemplify the type of innovations that are critical at this stage in Jamaica’s justice reform process. They add a human element to the array of institutional and legislative reforms that have been implemented to date,” she added.