'New face of justice' for Jamaica

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, November 12, 2018

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The largest number of justices of the peace that I have ever seen in one place gathered at Jamaica Conference Centre to hear the vision of Justice Minister Delroy Chuck for 'The New Face of Justice' last Saturday.

Keynote speaker, Chief Justice Bryan Sykes shared plans for increased efficiency, emphasising that, “We cannot remain where we are.” He said that this required close tracking of two elements:

* Hearing Date Certainty (HDC)

* Case Clearance Rates (CCR)

He said that the objective was to get to a 95 per cent HDC by 2021 in order to reduce the cost of litigation, court time and resources.

For the second measure, CCR, he said that an important factor in addressing this is courtroom utilisation. He believes that we can achieve greater efficiency without costing the country a single dollar more. This requires the reorganising of the setting of case dates after all parties have agreed facts and agreed evidence to minimise postponements.

He reminded the justices of the peace that each case revolves around a file. For a case file to serve its purpose it must be accurate, complete, up to date, and readily available. Towards this end, Government is investing in an electronic case management system which will afford remote access to judges.

He said that in addition to the quantitative data, which is available on the Supreme Court website, there is also the qualitative side, and towards this end a customer service charter has been created. This will ensure that there is accurate, up to date and reliable information for members of the public. Customer service booths are being established in each parish court, and there will be regular reviews of parish courts' workforce.

He said that his vision is to make Jamaica's judicial system the best in the Caribbean in three years and among the best in the world in six years. He appealed for the cooperation of all stakeholders for us to fulfil Vision 2030, noting that Jamaica should not only be the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business, but also the place of choice to retire.

Chuck reminded justices of the peace that we are community leaders and called on us to “take up social space rather than ceding it to the criminals”. In the face of the cold-blooded murders which have taken place over the past week, we must make the extra effort to take up this challenge.

He said that his ministry was resolute that all of Jamaica's courts should not only be first-class, but also have five-star facilities. He will be ensuring the security and safety of the courts by using “cameras in every corner”. He said his ministry “is about results… Matters that come to court should not spend a lifetime there. If a citizen seeks justice, this must be dealt with.” His objective is to have divorces and probates completed within four months “so that lives are not put on hold”.

We applaud Minister Chuck's call that: “Jamaica needs to start thinking First World. Stop looking at problems and blaming others — don't say 'why', but instead say 'why not'.”

He decried the murder rate and road traffic deaths in Jamaica: “Jamaica can get to less than 100 murders per year,” he said. “Imagine, with a larger population than ours, Singapore has less than 25 murders per year.” He noted that since the introduction of the zones of special operations (ZOSO) programme, hospitals are reporting less gunshot victims to treat and the new Road Traffic Act will have tougher penalties to deter indiscipline on our roads.

Minister Chuck said we need to “cut out the corruption — it is eating away at the system”. He says taxes are being wasted because of corruption — taxes that could be used to address the state of poverty, squalor and destitution in which too many Jamaicans live.

The minister of justice noted that sittings of night court were already in progress to address the backlog, and that all justices of the peace are being offered free training to be mediators. In response to a query from Justice of the Peace Desiree Witter regarding the availability of legal aid, the minister said that he will be introducing legal aid mobile units.

Justice of the Peace Sarah Newland-Martin reminded the minister and chief justice that court facilities should take into consideration individuals with disabilities and seniors. "Nothing about us without us,” she declared.

Dr Patrece Charles of National Integrity Action (NIA) invited the justices of the peace to become members and reminded them that they could report corrupt activity at 1-800-CORRUPT. She says the NIA was encouraged that Jamaica has been improving in this area — up from 83 to 68 out of 180 countries.

We also heard from Major (Ret'd) Peter Risden, deputy director of the Urban Development Corporation, who shared plans for a business process outsourcing (BPO) campus in downtown Kingston, Port Royal enhancement, and the transformation of National Heroes' Park. He emphasised that the intention for the surrounding communities was “not to displace but to uplift”.

Farewell, Winston Chung Fah

Many of us are grieving the loss of one of Jamaica's most passionate patriots, inspiring football coach and mentor, the great Winston Chung Fah. He was the recipient of FIFA's highest honour, the Order of Merit in 2012. “Chungie” was a dear friend of our family and this column carried an interview with him in 2008. Here are excerpts:

Chungie created the Santos Football Club in 1964, describing it as “the tent under which all classes could meet — uptown, downtown and cross town”.

Before that, he said, the less fortunate youngsters did not have an opportunity to hone their skills.

“I think sports will definitely go forward. With the wealth of experience that Eddie Seaga and P J Patterson have, it would be a great plus for them to be sitting with and advising the prime minister (then Portia Simpson Miller). We have to bury the past and move on.”

Chungie wants to use football to turn young people away from crime: “That is what I want to leave for my country… this has to stop. Too many bright youth losing their life. I want to give them hope.”

The best tribute we can give to our beloved Winston Chung Fah is to bring hope to the less fortunate young Jamaicans he loved so much.

Condolence to his dear wife, Barbara, and other family members. Rest in peace, dear Chungie.



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