Revised Victims' Charter coming

Revised Victims' Charter coming

BY KIMMO MATTHEWS Observer staff reporter

Saturday, February 04, 2012

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JUSTICE Minister Mark Golding says plans are under way to launch a revised Victims' Charter.

According to Golding, Cabinet submissions are being finalised to seek approval for the adoption of the amended document.

The revised charter, he said, will provide a more balanced framework to guide the development and implementation of policies to safeguard the rights of victims, accused persons and convicted offenders. The current Victims' Charter was developed in 2006, after islandwide public consultation.

He was speaking at a press conference Thursday to launch Restorative Justice Week at his ministry in Kingston.

He said, as it stands, "our justice system defines and treats crime as an offence against the State and its laws". This definition, the minister pointed out, was geared at attributing blame and punishing the offender, not solving problems and restoring broken relationships.

He also said that it was not sufficient for Jamaica to build a safe and just society blessed with social cohesion.

According to Golding, for the justice system to meet the aspirations of the people, the people must be placed at the centre.

He said that as Jamaica celebrates Restorative Justice Week a number of activities would be unfolding which would be geared towards heightening public awareness and understanding the roles and functions of the justice ministry.

"Restorative justice seeks to bring the needs of the people to the centre of the justice system so that, ultimately, the justice system will be perceived as responding to the all-too-common cry of "we want justice," said Golding.

The minister said Restorative Justice Week, which will be observed February 5-11, represents a fundamental and progressive shift in how the Government responds to criminal violence.

Victims are provided with the opportunity to obtain validation of their experiences, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions.

Golding said by focusing on redress and healing broken relationships, tensions are defused, communities are strengthened, and incidents of retribution leading to a destructive chain of crimes, reduced. He said this will also result in a reduction in the backlog of court cases.

Restorative Justice Week will be celebrated under the theme 'One people, One Spirit, One Justice'.

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