JIS News

The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel (OPC) in the Ministry of Justice has developed three new draft instruction templates to guide client Ministries as they prepare legislation.

Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Judith Grant, told JIS News that the introduction of the templates forms part of efforts aimed at improving the procedures for crafting laws.

She explained that the guides “deal with some of the areas that we find that there might be problems in sending specifically detailed drafting instructions, for example in the area of offences”.

“So we basically set out the minimal information about offences that would need to be captured and also included some of the principles of law that should guide how drafting instructions are formulated,” she said.

The templates also address proportionality, where, depending on the court, the offence and the specifics related to the level of the fine will differ. For instance, the fines at the parish court level will be different from those in the circuit court.

The templates were launched during a workshop held in March, where officers were sensitised about the benefits of working with the guides.

Ms. Grant said that the OPC is converting as much of the information as possible on to an electronic database, which eventually, the client ministries will be able to access through a website that is being developed.

She told JIS News that the OPC is also working on more templates. “We have completed a fourth and we are working on completing two more this year,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Chief Parliamentary Counsel is looking to modernise the process of drafting laws.

Focus is being placed on executing electronically how drafts are communicated to clients and how the client gives feedback and further instructions.

“The coronavirus (COVID-19) has put a rush on this initiative. That would include things like using simpler language, gender-neutral language and also incorporating technology. The OPC will be looking into doing things virtually, including workshops.

“We have an Electronic Transactions Act, which provides that whatever is to be done under any law that can be done in writing, can also be done in electronic form. So there is a foundation for it already,” Ms. Grant said.

So far, the OPC has been working with software that would enable the entity to modernise recordkeeping as well as how work is received into the office and assigned.

The OPC is charged with the responsibility of preparing draft legislation. It consists of a cadre of attorneys-at-law, headed by the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, and supported by administrative and secretarial staff.

In carrying out these functions, the OPC drafts Bills and subsidiary legislation on instructions from client ministries; advises ministries on points of law relevant to proposed legislation; examines and comments on all Cabinet submissions related to legislation; attends Legislation Committee (a subcommittee of Cabinet) meetings and, when necessary, sittings of parliament or committees when Bills are being taken.

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