UWI Professor Expresses Confidence in Gov’t Project to Reform Justice System


Chairman of the Jamaican Justice System Reform Task Force (JJSRTF), Professor Barrington Chevannes, has expressed confidence in the government’s project now underway, to undertake a comprehensive reform of the justice system
Speaking at a recent JIS News Think Tank, Prof. Chevannes said that past initiatives at justice reform have tended to be piecemeal and did not represent a total assault on the justice system. “But this one is,” he stated.
The activities being undertaken as part of the comprehensive reform are supported by a budgetary allocation of close to $60 million, as well as contributions from international donor agencies.
Professor Chevannes heads the task force which was established in November 2006, to inquire into the state of the justice system on a comprehensive basis and to develop strategies to facilitate the modernisation of the justice system so that it will be better able to meet the current and future needs of Jamaicans.
Represented on the task force are members of the judiciary, advocate associations, the Jamaica Bar Association, the resident magistracy, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Independent Council for Human Rights, as well as civil society.
In carrying out its mandate, Professor Chevannes informed that the JJSRTF has devised a variety of methods to collect data on the justice system, and was being supported in this regard by the Canadian Advisory Committee (CAC), a team of experts which includes high ranking judges and legal luminaries from the Canadian Bar Association.
He said that the Advisory Committee, which functions as the research arm of the task force, has been commissioned to conduct research and provide objective data in seven areas of the justice system. The areas are restorative justice; case flow management; alternate dispute resolution; the public and the justice system; access to the justice system; court management and the matter of a civil liberties culture.
“Those papers have been commissioned and will form a substantial body of data for the task force to look at and to deliberate on,” Dr. Chevannes explained.
In addition, the task force has identified some 26 issues around which it has requested persons to make written submissions of their opinions and recommendations. Among the issues to be examined are jury and bail and bailiff reform; plea bargaining; sentencing; judicial appointments; domestic disputes; the role of justices of the peace; scheduling of cases; the issue of civil procedures; and the role and function of the clerk of courts.
Noting that information will also be gleaned from public consultations to be held across the island, as well as interviews and focus groups, Prof. Chevannes said, “all of this data is going to be compiled [and] examined again at a national conference in May.”
“Our plan is that the months of February and March are the months of data collection. In April, we will . assimilate the information and in May we have a preliminary discussion in the form of a national conference, which we hope will attract wide public attention,” he outlined.
It is also projected that by the end of June, the task force will be able to finalize its recommendation and present them to the Minister of Justice, Senator, A.J. Nicholson.
“Those recommendations, once adopted, will then go to the transformation team and in the main, the work of the task force would have been completed,” he explained.

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