The Ministry of Justice will be undertaking works over the next 12 months to improve the operations of the country’s courts and reduce the backlog of cases.
Portfolio Minister, Delroy Chuck, has advised that contracts valued over $54 million have been signed for upgrading of the Sutton Street Parish Court and to enhance security at the Supreme Court in Kingston.
Chuck, in a statement on Tuesday (October 25), said the number of courtrooms for criminal case trials at the Supreme Court, will also to be increased.
“We are hoping that by early next year, an additional three criminal courts will be available for jury trials and that by the end of next year we should have at least 10 courts trying jury cases and two doing Gun Court cases,” he informed.
Additionally, the minister said a modern file folder system would be installed at the Supreme Court Registry.
Chuck said the ministry is also outfitting courtrooms with computers and photocopy machines, and installing new air-conditioning systems at locations where units have broken down and need to be replaced.
He noted further that preparatory work is ongoing for the implementation of a new case management system, which will, among other things, digitise court records and provide an automated facility for the entry of court cases until their disposition.
Chuck also disclosed that the pilot for a modern automated jury management system is expected to be implemented before the end of 2016.
This provision, he said, will be used to administer the electronic selection and payment of jurors.
Other measures include the installation of video-link technology at the Supreme Court and Half-Way-Tree Parish Court to facilitate witnesses who are unable to attend trial.
The minister advised that work to install the technology in 19 additional courts is expected to commence before the end of the 2016/17 fiscal year.
In addition, three mobile units, which are equipped to facilitate witnesses giving evidence remotely, have been acquired.
Chuck said the ministry is “far advanced” in procuring another 22 units, which are expected to arrive before the end of the fiscal year, and will be dispatched for use island wide.
He advised that digital audio recording equipment had been installed in some courtrooms, with 71 additional courtrooms and seven hearing rooms slated to be outfitted.
Other courts that have benefited from or are in the process of undergoing infrastructural improvement include the Corporate Area Civil and Criminal Courts; and the Parish Courts in Black River and Balaclava, St Elizabeth; Sandy Bay and May Pen, Clarendon; and Westmoreland.
“This government views justice as a priority. We are even more determined to (improve) the system with a sense of urgency. I urge you (citizens) to become part of the change in the justice system. Leaders in communities across Jamaica must see themselves as part of the solution,” the minister said.