Canadian high commissioner urges Gov't to use reform to improve information access
The ongoing improvements to the justice system must include civic education and transmission of information to the general public to help them better understand its operations, especially in relation to the courts. That's the view of Sylvain Fabi, Canada's high commissioner to Jamaica.
"Better knowledge of due processes will help reduce backlog in the court system. Using digital technology to share information on the law will also reduce the gaps between those who hold the knowledge and the general population, who needs it. Sharing information makes governments more accountable, and as a result, more transparent," he told yesterday's round-table discussion on justice reform at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
He continued: "The growth and complexity of our societies require a continual evolution of law itself. The consequence, then, of this increasing demand on justice leads to increased demands for improvements in not only access, but also the quality of justice. In other words, the more citizens turn to the courts, the more they also demand that the quality of justice will be very high."
Canada, through a CDN$20 million Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) programme, has been providing significant support to Jamaica's justice-reform agenda. Originally planned to run from 2011-2016, the programme has been extended to 2020.
Justice Minister Mark Golding used the occasion to assure Fabi that the money being spent to modernise the local justice system by way of investments in human and infrastructural resources is having the desired effect.
"Because of your intervention, those who we serve can be confident and trustful of the fact that their rights are at the core of the justice-reform efforts. We have seen where there have been improvements to our courts - from the physical structure to various trial processes to the administration of the court system - however, we are still faced with the severe challenge of unacceptable delays in disposing of cases within our courts. We have started the process of tackling this, but we still have a long way to go."
Some of the key objectives achieved under the JUST programme include:
- Development of a new corporate profile and organisational structure for the Ministry of Justice;
- Preparation of a structural framework for centralisation of legal services;
- Development of a prosecutor's manual setting out standard operating procedures for the exercise of prosecutorial functions and decision making;
- Provision of training for members of the judiciary, court administrators, and other court staff in case management; and
- Acquisition of computers and other technology solutions.
Canada is also helping Jamaica to improve crime prevention and community safety through a CDN$20 million grant to the Citizen Security and Justice Programme.
This project, which was started last year and is slated to run until 2018, seeks to improve security and justice for residents of volatile and vulnerable communities.
Fabi expressed the hope that through such initiatives, Jamaica would make further advances in strengthening the its governance and accountability mechanisms, as well as the justice system, to be more responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable members of society.
Golding gave the assurance that the country was on track to achieve these objectives.
"While we still have work to do to get our justice system to where we need it to be. We should strengthen our resolve by acknowledging the fact that we are heading in the right direction."