THE Office of Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) last Friday launched its disclosure protocol which, it said, will serve to enhance transparency and accountability in the justice system.
The protocol deals with the stages, content, exemptions to, and forms of disclosure.
In his address, Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding noted that the disclosure protocol will act as a manual governing disclosure by the prosecution in criminal cases.
"Disclosure is essential in achieving a fair adjudication process, as it promotes fairness and impartiality. This publication will add value to the criminal justice system by codifying in a single public document the principles which have emerged over the years of common law jurisprudence," Senator Golding said.
He noted further that the protocol will improve the level of transparency in the prosecution of criminal cases conducted in Jamaica and enhance the level of justice that is delivered in the criminal courts.
"The accessibility of the disclosure publication will provide opportunities for the Jamaican public to easily understand the main principles of law. This protocol should be treated with a level of respect that reflects the diligence that has gone into its creation. I charge our prosecutors with the task of familiarising themselves with its content and applying it accordingly," the minister urged guests attending the launch at The Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston.
He added that the protocol will be revised over time as it becomes necessary to reflect changing laws and practices, both in Jamaica and internationally.
Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn, in her address, said that prosecutors in Jamaica must demonstrate fearlessness, impartiality and a monumental work ethic in serving the public interest and maintaining law and order.
"The Office of the DPP recognises that true fairness in a trial requires prosecutors to embrace and practice high standards of ethics at all times. Disclosure is the practice of prosecutors revealing to the defendant, material on which the case against him or her is based. This is a critical element of fairness within a trial," Llewellyn said.
She added that the office looks forward to the concept of shared disclosure and responsibilities, between defence and prosecutors.
"The pendulum of justice should swing in both directions. This protocol outlines how Jamaican prosecutors consistently strive to approach as well as keep pace with ever evolving case law and international best practices," the DPP said.
In his remarks, Canadian High Commissioner Robert Ready said that Canada is pleased to support the reform of the Jamaican justice system.
"The disclosure protocol that is being launched is one of several Justice Undertaking for Social Transformation (JUST)-funded improvements that are currently underway within the Office of the DPP," Ready said.
He added that with technical assistance from Canada's Department of Justice and support from the Justice Reform Implementation Agency, a number of partnership-based activities are currently being implemented with the Office of the DPP.
"This include the development of standards of conduct for prosecutors, the development of a prosecutorial manual that addresses all facets of the prosecutors' functions, including their interface with police and victims, as well as the basis for prosecutorial decision-making and discretionary actions," Ready said.
The protocol was developed through the JUST Programme, a joint project of the governments of Jamaica and Canada.