Justice Minister, Hon. Delroy Chuck, says the Ministry has been making the necessary preparations for Justices of the Peace (JPs) to be adequately trained to preside in Lay Magistrates Courts.
He said this will assist in significantly reducing the Parish Courts’ caseloads, thereby enhancing the overall judicial system’s efficiency and service delivery.
The Minister was delivering the keynote address at the installation ceremony for 89 newly commissioned JPs for St. Elizabeth, at Beadle’s Hall in the parish on Friday (March 16).
Mr. Chuck, who urged JPs to avail themselves of the potential opportunities, said special emphasis is being placed on training them to become restorative justice facilitators and court mediators.
He further indicated that consequent on the Child Diversion Bill’s passage in the Houses of Parliament, JPs will be trained as Child Diversion Officers.
“We want to keep and take young children under the age of 17 away from the formal court system; mediation (and) restorative justice facilitation… are meant to ease the burden on the court system,” he outlined.
He said the Ministry will be paying for 500 JPs to be trained as mediators every year and is prepared to pay for more, citing the need for them to be available to “assist the justice system”.
“Apart from you being in the community as peacemakers and peacekeepers, we need you to ensure that less members of the communities end up in the formal justice system, because the court system is overburdened, it is under stress, it is bogged down,” the Minister emphasized.
The Minister pointed out that about 50,000 new cases come to the courts each year, with less than 25,000 proceeding to trial.
“With the best wishes in the world, we can’t try all the cases; and that is why my driving mediation, child diversion (and) restorative justice is to take some of the burden off the (regular) court system,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Chuck said the Executive and the Judiciary plan to meet semi-annually to discuss issues within the justice sector.
“We are going to do everything to boost the justice system. All of our court houses will soon have all the necessary technology to have a paperless system (and) every stakeholder… will now have to step up to the plate. In the last two year, we have spent in excess of $2 billion fixing up the court houses. We have problems in the court, but together we can solve them,” he stated.
For his part, State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and South West St. Elizabeth Member of Parliament, Hon. Floyd Green, congratulated the newly commissioned JPs, and urged the Justice Ministry to encourage more young people to offer themselves for service in this capacity.
“We have to go on a drive to get more of our young people signed up as Justices of the Peace because, quite frankly, we do have qualified young people who have distinguished themselves, in every aspect of (life). What we want is to hold them up as examples, as mentors for other young people (to demonstrate) that you can achieve this great title (JP) through hard work and perseverance,” he said.
To date, a total of 822 JPs have been commissioned for the 2017/18 fiscal year.