JURIST project strengthens justice systemFriday, December 22, 2017
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Jamaica is among several regional countries benefiting from implementation of the Government of Canada-funded Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project, at a cost of Can$90 million.
The initiative, being implemented by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on behalf of the Conference of Heads of the Judiciary of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), is designed to facilitate improved court administration and support services, resulting in more efficient and effective trial proceedings and disposal of cases.
Project Director, Dr Penny Reedie, says ongoing work aims to modernise and strengthen the region's court systems, processes and services as well as equip judicial officers and court staff with the requisite skills and competencies necessary to deliver justice in a “fair, predictable and timely manner”.
“The ultimate goal of the JURIST Project is to develop a regional judicial system that is more responsive to the needs of women, men, youth and the poor,” Reedie explained.
She was speaking at the recent launch of the 'Model Guidelines for Sexual Offence Cases in the Caribbean' document, held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
Reedie noted that “great strides” have been made in undertaking a number of initiatives, particularly in relation to gender affairs.
These include roll-out of the 'Model Guidelines for Sexual Offence Cases', and development of the accompanying Survivor's Rights Charter; the production of Gender Equality Protocols for magistrates and judges in Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago, with others being developed for Jamaica, Guyana and Belize; preparation of gender and sexual harassment policies for the CCJ; and assistance with the development of civil procedure rules in Guyana.
Additionally, Reedie said training sessions on gender equality and access to justice have been undertaken for CCJ staff, a sexual offences baseline study was conducted in five CARICOM member States, while a gender and judicial decision making survey was carried out in 14 CARICOM countries.
Other engagements that have either been completed or are in progress are disaster recovery and business continuity planning for the Barbados High Court; training in court administration and adjudication that is gender-responsive and customer-focused; re-engineering of business processes in selected courts, to identify delays and facilitate introduction of the requisite technology designed to address factors such as case backlogs; and the training of personnel for more efficient administration of justice.
The Project Director further advised that a regional training needs assessment has also been completed. This, she pointed out, includes a regional training plan for the next two years for personnel at all levels of the justice system.
“We have (also) supported courts to develop tools to deliver public education programmes, and to reassure customer feedback and satisfaction,” she added.
Activities that Reedie said are slated to come on stream include the establishment of a knowledge-based management system to house the Project's data as well as information on other judicial reform initiatives undertaken regionally and globally.
“We are (also) establishing a business model for regional information and communications technology solutions, with specific focus on case-management systems, and, very importantly, we are establishing specialised courts,” she added.
Reedie said the focus on gender equality, which is a “cross-cutting” theme in the JURIST Project, means that “every initiative that we consider must be viewed through gender lenses”.
“We must integrate gender equality throughout the court process from the filing of cases to the disposition of cases. It is my view, having been in this job (Project Director) for just over a year, that the work we do in this area of gender equality will be key to determining whether or not the JURIST Project is a successful regional project. I think we are on course to prove that,” she said.
Canada's High Commissioner to Jamaica, Laurie Peters, who also spoke at the Model Guidelines launch, noted that the JURIST Project is part of a larger Can$600-million regional development programme being spearheaded by Global Affairs Canada.
“Its aim is to build a more prosperous and integrated Caribbean Community that allows us all to have sustainable economic growth and provide opportunities and security for all citizens of the Caribbean,” she said.