Editorial

Because the quality of justice is not strained…

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

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The Government's plan to have live streaming of select criminal and civil cases has won support from some attorneys, and with good reason. For, as was argued by those lawyers with whom this newspaper spoke on Sunday, this development will help to bring some amount of transparency to the judicial system.

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck spoke about the issue last Friday, saying that discussions are now underway with Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, Court of Appeal Acting President Dennis Morrison, and several parish judges across the island.

Minister Chuck also explained that the proposed move is intended to enhance accountability — one of the key factors in any serious attempt to increase confidence in the justice system.

Attorneys Messrs Ian Wilkinson, QC; Linton Gordon; and Andre Earl all agree that the country can benefit from live broadcasts of some trials as the public's understanding of how courts operate would be enhanced. They also posited that it would allow citizens to form opinions on some of the issues affecting the island's courts.

Quite frankly, we can't envision anyone objecting to this proposal because, as Mr Earl pointed out, there already exists a layer of protection with provisions for in-camera proceedings, and for parties to request privacy for other cases which are regarded as sensitive.

Plus, as all three eminent attorneys stated, the public already has access to the courts, except, of course, in matters that fall within the layer of protection.

Minister Chuck, we notice, has been pushing hard to upgrade and modernise the country's court infrastructure. In fact, just last week we commented on that in this space, pointing to the things he has already done and is proposing to do since taking office, and encouraged him to press ahead.

We reiterate that encouragement and propose to Minister Chuck that he adds to his to-do list opening the door to journalists being allowed to use electronic recording devices, particularly tape recorders, while they cover cases.

It is not an uncommon feature in other jurisdictions, and would basically end complaints by some attorneys and court officials of “inaccurate reporting”, while contributing to the public gaining a better understanding of trial dialogue.

Of course, any such system must be subjected to checks and balances to include a permission process from the court that would determine and legitimise the type of electronic recording devices to be used by professional journalists. And, most naturally, would not be allowed at in-camera trials.

It would not hurt our legislators to look at what obtains elsewhere and adapt provisions that could work here, even as they format the rules governing what would be a great step forward in our judicial system.

Like mercy, the quality of justice is not strained. And let us never forget that although the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends, relentlessly, towards justice.

Over to you, Minister Chuck.

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