JPs have critical role in new law to fight crime, says Chuck
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck says custodes and justices of the peace (JPs) have a critical role to play in ensuring the protection of citizens' rights, once an area has been designated a special crime zone.
Addressing the opening ceremony for the first justice centre in the island in St Ann last Thursday, Chuck said JPs should be present when security forces are conducting searches in these special zones.
"If a person is to be detained, the police will have to convince the JPs that this person is suspected (of committing a crime), and if the JPs disagree, the man must be released. If the JPs agree, within 24 hours, that person must be taken before a parish judge," he said.
Additionally, Chuck noted that the Mobile Justice Unit, which was launched earlier this year, will be stationed in the zones to further guarantee the protection of citizens' rights and freedoms.
Explain the issue
"So, if citizens feel that their rights are being infringed, they can go into the unit and explain the issue, and if property is damaged or rights are infringed, and it can be proven, then they will get compensation. This Government believes that the rights of the citizen and their dignity must be upheld," he said.
Under the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures Act), which is now before the Senate, an area would be designated a special crime zone by the prime minister on the advice of the chief of defence staff and the commissioner of police.
Security operations then take place in these high-crime areas, after which community development measures are initiated.
Meanwhile, in her address, Carol Palmer, permanent secretary in the justice ministry, said the opening of the Parish Justice Centre is the fulfilment of a commitment given by Chuck in his 2017-18 Sectoral Debate that it would open in the first week of July.
Carol Palmer, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice, has indicated that more than $27 million was spent to undertake refurbishing and construction works at the Parish Justice Centre in St Ann.
Palmer said that of that sum, approximately $2 million was spent to provide furnishings and information technology support.
Member of Parliament for St Ann North Eastern Shahine Robinson, who is also minister of labour and social security, expressed gratitude to the justice ministry for the centre, as well as the international donor agencies and countries that helped to make the centre a reality.
"Your donation speaks to the fact that we must unite against crime," Robinson said.
Supporting the reform
Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica Sylvain Fabi noted that his country has been supporting the reform of the justice sector since 2007 through a number of initiatives.
The wide-ranging projects have been facilitated under the Justice Undertaking for Social Transformation (JUST) Programme.
Fabi said Canada is working to bring justice closer to Jamaicans and is ensuring that Jamaica's justice system is reformed to benefit all.
Head of Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Jamaica Malgorzata Wasilewska said the EUs' biggest support to Jamaica is in the area of justice, and believes that the citizenry must settle conflicts outside of courts.
Offering services such as restorative justice, mediation and child diversion, the Ministry of Justice is hoping to establish 13 other parish justice centres across the island.
Some of the main objectives behind this are to reduce case backlogs in court, improve the justice system capacity to meet the demands of the public and to reduce the demands on the justice system.