By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE COVID-19 pandemic has added more backlogs to the courts, but Chief Justice Brian Moree, QC, said the judiciary is working its way through those cases which have been disrupted since March.
At a contract signing with the Bahamas judiciary and Anchor Group, Chief Justice Moree said: “What I can say is that we have each division of the court system looking at the backlog and we’re attacking it two different ways. We’re looking at the backlog as it existed prior to March 2020 in other words prior to the major shutdown as a result of the pandemic. That was a pre-COVID backlog. That is an inventory which we have been managing for sometime and will have to continue to manage that.
“Then we have a second unit working on the post-March backlog. These were cases in all divisions, in all courts which were displaced as a result of COVID-19... The third component is we have to manage our calendar going forward so we don’t further compound these backlogs. To make sure that we’re not contributing to the backlog through adjournments and other delays.
“I certainly feel very confident that we will be able, on the non-criminal side, to catch up with our second category of cases, in other words those that were displaced since March. In fact, I would say that at this point in time based upon the information revealed to me, we probably caught up on about 80 percent of that particular basket of inventory of cases.”
A contract for $2m was signed for an integrated case management system (ICMS) for the courts, which will help in reducing the backlog of the cases in the system. Moreover, it will allow the courts to deliver a wide range of e-services such as e-filing, e-scheduling, e-payments, e-notices. ICMS will accommodate the new bail management system and the new digital recording system. This was made possible through funding by the Citizens Security and Justice programme - a loan by the Inter-American Development Bank.
According to an Anchor group representative, there will be five phases to the implementation and which will be rolled out in phases by courts - two courts at a time. The goal is to finish the full implementation by February 2022.
In his remarks, Attorney General Carl Bethel noted that it was “a red-letter day for the justice system of The Bahamas”.
“This programme started in 2016 under... the former national security minister now passed on to glory and my immediate predecessor in office.
“I must commend the honourable Minister Dames for his passionate advocacy of this entire IDB project and also the honourable the chief justice ...the passion in which he embraced the opportunity presented by this project and has sort to take the legal system of the Bahamas out of the 19th century and plunge it ...into the 21st.”
National Security Minister March Dames, who was also present, said due to issues in the judicial system, many times criminals awaiting trial commit other crimes.
He noted: “The access of modern information systems and technologies within the judiciary has hindered the delivery of timely justice which has contributed to a growing number of backlogged cases awaiting trial and a diminishing number of successful convictions. Additionally, the limited capacity of our justice system has contributed to increased incidents of crime and violence as many offenders while awaiting court proceedings commit additional crimes.”
As for Family Island cases, they are served through magistrates going on circuits from time to time to deal with cases on the other islands. The chief justice admitted, however, there has been quite an accumulated backlog on some of the islands as well which is being addressed.
He added: “We had a magistrate go to Eleuthera just a month or so ago to deal with those offenses. We had a magistrate go to Bimini who spent three days to clear up some of their backlog and we have circuits planned to resume on a more regular basis starting in January.
“The technology available on these other Family Islands does depend upon the state of the administrator’s office in those islands. Some of them are quite good and we are looking at holding remote hearings. Some of them are not very good at all and it isn’t going to be possible for a remote platform so we’ll continue to service those islands through the circuits.”
mandela 2 years, 5 months ago
The court system has to be backed up when persons are taken before a Judge or Magistrate for nonsense, stupid things like using explicit words in front of a police officer how stupid is that to bog down the court, and waste tax-payers money, and so on.
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