Sexual offence court to be set up by mid-year

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By mid-year, a court will be set up in Antigua and Barbuda that will specifically handle all sexual offences. This was disclosed by Dr. Penny Reedie, director of the JURIST Project, at yesterday’s launch ofthe model guidelines for Sexual Offences Cases in the Caribbean Region. The Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project is a Cdn.
$19 million, five-year regional Caribbean judicial reform initiative for 2014- 2019, which is funded under an agreement with the government of Canada. Dr. Reedie, said the court will provide the level of privacy needed to protect victims and witnesses. However, that protection ends for the accused, if convicted. “It is intended to provide a gender-coordinated response to complainants and vulnerable witnesses. The project will train a cadre of professionals, including judges, court personnel, police, lawyers, prosecutors and victim support personnel from government and NGOs,” Dr. Reedie said.
JURIST will also provide the technology, equipment, and training to implement special measures to witnesses and complainants in sexual assault cases. She said the model court will test the prescription outlined in the model guideline and will receive support from JURIST for the first year. Steadroy Benjamin, the attorney general, has pledged the resources to ensure the continuity of the court.
The ceremony, which was held at the Trade Winds Hotel, was addressed by Justice Gertel Thom, Court of Appeal judge; Samantha Marshall, minister of Social Transformation; Justice Iain Morley, High Court judge; Marie Legault, high commissioner of Canada; Dr. Reedie; Farmarla Jacobs, acting director of Gender Affairs; Justice Maureen Rajnauthe-Lee, Caribbean Court of Appeal judge and chair of the Sexual Offences Advisory Committee.
The project is being implemented on behalf of the Global Affairs Canada and the Conference of Heads of Judiciary of CARICOM (conference), by the Caribbean Court of Justice, which was appointed by the conference as its Regional Executing Agency. The project works with judiciaries of the region to support the efforts to improve court administration and strengthen the ability of the courts and the judiciary to resolve cases efficiently and fairly.
The programme has been implemented in at least six countries. The court is to be set up at the High Court. Currently, all cases of sexual offences are tried in the regular courtroom where the public is not restricted from attending unless a judge gives a specific directive to clear the courtroom.

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