Justice system finally catching up with the 21st century

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

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The digital audio-recording and video-link equipment presented to Jamaica by the European Union (EU) this week for use in our courts is significant for the fact that it is designed to improve efficiency and reduce case backlog.

A report from the Government news agency, the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), states that, “The technology will facilitate witnesses giving evidence from remote locations, assist in protecting the identity of witnesses, and reduce the time taken for judges to note important information, which will result in speedier resolution of cases.”

It will also result in cost savings by reducing the movement of detainees for court hearings, the JIS added.

We are told that the system, valued at $232 million (€1.7 million), was provided under the EU-funded Justice, Security, Accountability and Transparency (JSAT) project system which, the Government states, is aimed at improving the quality of life of Jamaicans by strengthening governance and oversight, with particular regard to the functioning of the security and justice systems.

The JIS has also reported that the equipment will be installed in 71 courtrooms and seven hearing rooms across the island, with installation almost complete at the Supreme Court.

This is a most promising development, albeit late in this era of advanced technology. However, we welcome the fact that Jamaica's justice system is finally catching up with the 21st century, and we are encouraged by Justice Minister Delroy Chuck's declaration that the Government is “committed to providing the necessary resources to further improve the justice system”.

That, we hold, is a vital element in the country's effort to not only combat crime, but to attract investment — as the rule of law is one of the main factors that investors consider when making decisions as to where to do business.

Indeed, a survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2014 found that “a clear connection exists between Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) decision-making and the rule of law”.

According to the survey, which was conducted on behalf of Hogan Lovells and the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law and the Investment Treaty Forum of the British Institute of International Comparative Law: “The existence of a strong rule of law was identified as the third most important factor in selecting the location of FDI, after the ease of doing business and the existence of a stable political environment.”

But just as important is public trust in the justice system which, unfortunately, is the target of some level of cynicism, mostly because of the length of time it takes cases to be tried and completed, the upshot of which is the backlog about which the chief justice and the director of public prosecutions have complained.

It is our hope, therefore, that this equipment will be commissioned into use as quickly as possible and that the country will make full use of it.

We thank the EU, which, through its Head of Delegation Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, has said that Jamaicans can look forward to further initiatives under JSAT next year.

At the same time, we impress upon our leaders the need for Jamaica to get to the point where donations of this and other kinds are not necessary.

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