By Theresa Goodwin
A lack of sufficient data to assist in making decisions at the level of the courts’ case management and case backlogs which impact security and justice, has been identified as some of the weaknesses in the region’s judicial system.
These were some of the findings of a needs assessment that covers proceedings in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Some of the details and recommendations of the report, commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), were the subject of a regional webinar hosted on UWI TV on Thursday morning.
One of the main speakers, Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Dame Janice Pereira, said that concerning some of the inefficiencies listed, many of the jurisdictions are on the right track with the steps that should be taken to improve the system in their respective territories.
She added, however, that work must be done to change the negative public perception of the region’s judicial system, pointing out that communication is the key to achieve this.
Another area she referred to was “the uneven and inconsistent sentencing in matters before the court which negatively impacts the perception of fairness and impartiality in the system. Therefore, the reforms such as sentencing guidelines which we are currently undertaking, coupled with judicial education, will assist in making the change.”
Antigua and Barbuda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nation and President of the UNDP’s Executive Board, Ambassador Aubrey Webson, who spoke on behalf of the twin island state, said a wide cross section of stakeholders had been invited to provide their input to the document.
Webson also highlighted the issue of the backlog of cases, in particular criminal matters, which he said could be attributed to a number of factors, namely slow investigation conducted by the police, delays in the deposition process and a lack of human and technological resources.
“This raises a lot of questions about issues that needs urgent attention. The role of our governments in the region was noticed on the report and the improved steps that are been taken to strengthen the system,” Webson said.
He said regional leaders were commended for the steps taken to introduce legislative reforms, efforts for professional development within the legal system and the introduction of specialized courts for drugs, family, juveniles, and sexual offences and the increased use of technologies.
The detailed report will be circulated to regional territories within a few weeks for further perusal and implementation where necessary.