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Court reporters needed!

Published:Monday | January 26, 2015 | 12:00 AM

International partner helps JA kick-start programme to train real-time writers

Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer

The inability of the justice system to attract more persons to the job of court reporter is being pointed out as one of the factors that put the brakes on the wheels of justice.

Court reporters are used to take verbatim notes in proceedings in the courts, and the shortage is one of several challenges facing the court system, which is heavily dependent on transcripts, particularly in cases of appeal.

To ease the shortage, the justice reform agenda, with the help of an international partner, has restarted a programme, first introduced in 2000, to train individuals to become real-time reporters.

"With the assistance of one of our international partners, we are training court reporters to type in real time, the objective being that by the end of the trial, the transcript would be ready," Chief Justice Zaila McCalla told The Gleaner.

"We have evaluated them already, and they are going to go into training mode now," she added.

Court reporting is a highly skilled profession requiring extensive training in shorthand.

Court reporters' training involves the use of a specialised machine. The reporters are trained to achieve speed and accuracy in stenography. The full-time course covers subject areas including English language and familiarisation with popular terms and phrases that are likely to be used in court cases. Pupils are also taught keyboarding and court procedures. Graduates must attain the required minimum standard of 180 words per minute. Those meeting that standard are used in the Supreme and Resident Magistrate's courts.

Over the years, declining numbers and the failure to attract more persons to the position have left those in the system carrying heavy workloads.