Jamaica’s Justice Ministry Rolling out Initiatives to Prevent Witness Intimidation

Chief Justice Bryan Sykes (left), converses with Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council, Hugh Faulkner, during the opening of the Justice Ministry’s Witness Care Conference. (Credit: JIS)

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Monday July 22, 2019 – The Jamaica government is embarking on initiatives to protect witnesses in trials from intimidation, including providing buses equipped with audio-video technology, to assist in securing testimony from witnesses.

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck said two such vehicles, which will be rolled out soon, will be used to travel to remote areas where witnesses may be located.

He said other initiatives include equipping 78 courtrooms with digital audio facilities, and 19 with audio-video recording apparatus, noting that “with this technology, witness intimidation will be significantly reduced”.

Additionally, the Minister said, legislation has been passed to allow witnesses in human trafficking cases being tried in the Circuit Court, to testify before presiding judges without a jury.

“Our goal, mission and purpose at the Ministry of Justice is to create a first class justice system that delivers timely justice to all, irrespective of their socio-economic circumstances,” Chuck emphasized, adding that a first-class justice system cannot exist without the proper care and protection of witnesses.

His comments were delivered by Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council, Hugh Faulkner, at a Witness Care Conference, at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, Mona, which ended over the weekend.

Minister Chuck said engagement such as the conference are intended to provide a “wealth of information” that should be used as “critical investments” to yield “tangible results” for the care of witnesses.

This, he added, is imperative in spurring civic-minded Jamaicans into action, and sending a message to the criminal underworld that “witnesses will not cower in fear, but will be motivated to stand and be counted and play their part in creating a society that is secure, cohesive and just”.

The inaugural event was a key activity under the Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) Project, a $19.8 million Global Affairs Canada (GAC)-funded initiative, being implemented by the Justice Ministry and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

It is supporting justice sector reforms through technical-legal assistance; institutional strengthening; and social order.

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