Another gain for the justice system

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

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We note with satisfaction reports that a contract has been signed for Wi-Fi modems and wireless Internet in courthouses.

As reported by the Government's information arm, Jamaica Information Service ( JIS) the Ministry of Justice is partnering with the technology providers Growth-Tech Limited for delivery of the project.

It's yet another step in the admirable push by Justice Minister Delroy Chuck and his Government to drag Jamaica's anachronistic justice system into the 21st century.

Mr Chuck tells us that the latest initiative will assist the evolution to “first-class courts” and “first-class service” for those seeking justice. Crucially, it will assist the enabling of people to watch some court proceedings (as approved by judicial authorities) on visual communication devices. This is in line with the responsibility to honour the public's right to know.

Says Mr Chuck: “We expect that by next year all the courts will be properly equipped so that, with the chief justice's approval, courts which can be live-streamed will be streamed.”

We are told that the Wi-Fi service will improve the efficiency of security surveillance systems in court and, according to Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, will have the added convenience of allowing those who must spend time in court to conduct legitimate business such as online banking.

In that regard, we are well aware that among the downsides for citizens having to report to court for duty, as jurors for example, is the almost inevitable disruption of personal business.

Chief Justice Sykes also reminds us that there will be the potential for negatives to free Wi-FI in courthouses if the authorities are not very careful.

Care will have to be taken that security of witnesses and the conduct of trials are not compromised.

“This initiative is new to us and we will have to work out how we will be operating this within the context of the courts because the court is a very controlled environment,” said Justice Sykes.

And yet, if we stop to think about it, there really is no choice. Human existence has always been subject to evolving technology. And in today's world of mind-boggling change in high-tech communication, all sectors including the courts must strive to keep in step or be left hopelessly behind.

Obviously, then, great emphasis will have to be placed on proper controls.

Also, it seems to this newspaper, as the society moves to modernise the courts and to keep citizens properly informed, there is need yet again to appeal to the authorities to change the policy as regards the use of digital recorders by journalists in court. It seems backward in the extreme that news reporters in court must in this day and age depend solely on handwritten notes in order to get accurate information to the public.

We need not belabour the point that the use of recorders should minimise inaccurate reporting from the courts — which on occasions has drawn the ire of judges.

From our perspective, we see no downsides to reinforcing and satisfying the public's right to know.

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