JIS News

Residents of Spanish Town, St. Catherine, were given an opportunity to voice their views on the justice system at a public consultation, held at the Glad Tidings Open Bible Church in the town on March 20.
This consultation, the fifth in a series of 20 being held across the island from March to April, was held to assist the Jamaica Justice System Reform Task Force, in making recommendations for a strategy to modernise the justice system.
Project Manager with the Task Force, Peter Parchment explained that the overall reform project, which is also being aided by an advisory committee from the Canadian Bar Association, is geared towards making the justice system “more efficient, easier to access and fair to everyone.”
The residents called for greater speed in dealing with cases through the island’s Courts, and expressed the view that in many instances, the length of time it took for someone to be taken through the process was frustratingly long.
They recommended that the Police be held to higher standards of accuracy and thoroughness in investigating cases. It was also suggested that a computerized database be established and networked throughout the Court system, to facilitate easy access to cases by court staff.
The residents also called for the increased use of mediation; the remodelling of court facilities, and for training sessions to foster sensitivity to the needs of victims and witnesses.
Member of the task force and Director of the Disputes Resolution Foundation, Donna Parchment told JIS News that, “this consultation has been one of the examples of why it is so important to talk to the community.”
“What struck me most was the number of people who think it is important to make this thing work well. Although people had some negative perceptions about a variety of issues, such as the police, the court buildings, court staff, attorneys, they were open to hearing how that perception could be changed,” she said.
Noting that the task force would not rely on its own knowledge of the system, but would properly record and include the recommendations of the public, Miss Parchment said the members considered it “important to hear the authentic individual voice of Jamaicans, both those who have had contact with the justice system and those who have only observed the justice system.”
She said that the current challenge was not just “to do a progressive kind of improvement, but to draw a line in the sand and say, going forward, here is a plan of action that deals with systems, structures, personnel resources, philosophy, and services.that there can be a plan of action for phased or timed implementation.”
Miss Parchment emphasised that all citizens should use the opportunity to be a part of the process. “Wherever you are, if you hear that there is going to be a forum, whether it’s a regional meeting, a committee meeting, anything to do with justice reform, please make the effort to attend,” she urged.
Consultations have also been scheduled for March 27 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Jonathan Grant High School, Spanish Town, St. Catherine and at St. Gabriel’s Anglican Church in May Pen.
On March 28, consultations will be held at the Sean Lavary Hall in Savanna-la-Mar from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and at the Anglican Church Hall in St. Ann’s Bay from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Additionally, Portmore HEART Academy and Ascot Hall in Old Harbour will be hosting sessions on March 29 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.