Justice Ministry committed to improve the standard of Witness Care

July 28, 2019

Chief Justice of Jamaica, the Hon Bryan Sykes has a word with Hugh Faulkner, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council, who represented the Minister of Justie Delroy Chuck at Witness Care Cobference 2019

[KINGSTON: 24 July 2019]: A pledge has been made by The Ministry of Justice to improve the state of witness care and protection in Jamaica.

The commitment was made at the opening session of the country’s first comprehensive Witness Care Conference held at the Faculty of Law at the University of the West Indies, on July 19. It was given by Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council, Hugh Faulkner who represented the Minister of Justice, The Hon. Delroy Chuck.

Mr. Faulkner told a packed audience of key stakeholders that included justice sector officials, the legal fraternity, civil society and the judiciary that the Jamaican Government stands ready to work along with partners and implementing agencies to strengthen systems and processes to benefit witnesses. The head of the Legal Aid Council highlighted that the mantra of the Ministry is to build a First-Class Justice System that engenders trust and confidence and such a goal will not be achieved without sustained programmes and mechanisms to encourage witnesses to come forward, while at the same time ensuring that measures are instituted to address their welfare. As part of the Government’s support to improve the participation of witnesses in the trial process, Mr. Faulkner disclosed that mobile units outfitted with audio visual technology will be a part of the Justice system in short order and this will reduce witness intimidation and improve the conditions under which testimonies are given.      

 There was also strong support for the aims and objective of the conference from Chief Justice, The Hon. Bryan Sykes.  Justice Sykes called for equitable justice services for witnesses, who in his view should be seen as court users within a broader customer care management system. In his call for equitable treatment he called on stakeholders to treat court users fairly based on individual needs.     

Director of Public Prosecutions – DPP also addressed the gathering and she called for an end to the “informer fi dead” culture as the lyrics of some dancehall songs are not in keeping with a philosophy that encourages witness participation and protection. She however noted that prosecutors must never be daunted, even when faced with what appear to be insurmountable obstacles. While lauding the creative initiatives used by some of her colleagues to encourage witnesses to come forward, the nation’s top prosecutor stressed that at times there is need to go the extra mile to secure witness participation in the interest of justice.

Meanwhile, Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica Her Excellency Laurie Peters noted that the conference highlights the importance of Justice Reform initiatives to the Government of Canada. She further noted that the Witness Care Conference is part of an overall social order campaign by the Canadian Government to raise awareness about key aspects of the country’s justice sector in a bid to foster greater participation.   

UNDP Resident Representative Denise E Antonio reaffirmed UNDP’s commitment to partner with the Government of Jamaica, Global Affairs Canada and other stakeholders to continue to support the country in advancing its justice reform priorities. “Equal access to justice by every citizen is tantamount to human development, guaranteeing that everyone benefits from development gains and ensuring that no one is left behind,” she declared

The Witness Care Conference was a multi-agency collaborative initiative involving the following key partners: The Ministry of Justice, Global Affairs Canada, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Canadian-funded, Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) Programme.

There was also key support from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), the Norman Manley Law School and the Ministry of National Security.

CONTACT: Andrew Canon, Public Education Specialist, Ministry of Justice, 61 Constant Spring Rd, Kingston 10; TEL & WHATSAPP: 876 458 0747; Email: andrew.canon@moj.gov.jm

CONTACT: Gillian Scott, Communications Analyst, UNDP. Tel: 876 978 2390 – 9 Ext 2032; TEL & WHATSAPP: 876 509 0724