JIS News

The Ministry of Justice is taking steps to deepen the confidence of Jamaicans in the justice system.Justice Minister and Attorney General, Senator A.J. Nicholson who made the announcement said that this move was pivotal at this time as the issue of trust was a serious challenge.
He was speaking at the graduation ceremony of 14 investigators for the Police Public Complaints Authority (PPCA), held on Tuesday, February 24 at the Medallion Hall Hotel in Kingston. The 12-module training exercise was organized by the Citizens Security and Justice Programme (CSJP), and funded by the Inter-American Development Bank.
“One of the real challenges that we face in Jamaica today, at the beginning of the 21st century. is trust and confidence in the justice system,” the Attorney-General told the graduates.
He noted that the PPCA since its inception, has had to face the challenge of deep mistrust on the part of a doubting public, which thought that the agency was a veneer put in place to mask the worrying number of abuses, allegedly committed by members of the security forces, as agents of the state.
The Attorney-General added however, that today, through an unswerving commitment to striving for the proper conduct of investigations, the PPCA was gaining the trust of the citizens of Jamaica, as was evidenced by the growing number of complaints which were filed with the Authority.
In outlining the efforts undertaken to enhance the trust of the populace, Minister Nicholson told JIS News, that the expansion of access to the justice system was an important development. These include “the institution of the drug court system, the widening of the family court system, night courts [and] the gun court areas that have been expanded in the rural parishes. Once persons know that there is access to the justice system, that is the beginning of breaking down the walls,” he stressed.
He also said that other things had to be done, such as improving the appearance of courthouses, and the continuation of the work of the PPCA, so that the relevant cases could reach the courts, in the proper way. “And we intend to carry on that programme as we seek to enhance the trust and the confidence that the people of Jamaica must have, not only in the security forces, but also in the justice system,” Minister Nicholson added emphatically.
Director of Complaints and Investigations of the PPCA, Glen Morrison, also spoke to the issue of building trust in the Authority. He also highlighted the importance of training to the agency.
In 2001, he noted, the PPCA received 267 cases. This number has risen to 525 in the last fiscal year. The citizens, he said, had seen that the Authority was performing and the confidence was growing.
In 2001, the Director said, he realized that there was a need for training of the investigators. “If we are investigating the police, who are an investigation force themselves, obviously, our investigation must be at a higher level,” he pointed out. The investigators have been trained in Collating Evidence, Exhibit Management, Forensic Science, Managing Witnesses, Investigative Interviewing, among other subject areas.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Carol Palmer, in support of the PPCA, pointed out that this body was not a police department, but in fact an independent investigative body.
“The Police Public Complaints Authority is not a department of the police. It is an independent statutory body of Government, which falls under the Ministry of Justice. The police fall under the Ministry of National Security, so it is separate and independent,” she clarified. She also added that even though it was an agency of the Ministry of Justice, it was in fact independent of the Ministry. The Justice Ministry, she noted, supported the PPCA in terms of policymaking, especially in relation to matters that need to go to Cabinet, and also with respect to its budget. But, she reiterated, the PPCA operated as an independent entity.
Mrs. Palmer also told JIS News, that a change of name for the Authority was being contemplated, to help avoid any misunderstandings the public might have about the work of the authority.
“We are contemplating a change of name – that will be going to Cabinet very soon, because we recognize maybe even in the name, comes the fear and lack of confidence. So we are hoping that with the change of name, that will contribute to increasing public confidence and trust in the Authority,” the Permanent Secretary noted.