IT is difficult to assess the past year in comparison to other years – and that holds true in the court system too.
Even the Attorney General, Carl Bethel, while hailing the increase in the conviction rate up to 87 percent, acknowledged last year was an unprecedented one, saying he thinks it will be remembered as the “lost year”.
That’s an honest assessment – and while we may not have been prepared for the pandemic that has caused so much upheaval around the world – there are signs that it might have started the ball rolling for much-needed changes in our justice system here at home.
The increase in the conviction rate is welcome, though Mr Bethel himself notes that it is “in the reduced circumstances caused by COVID”. Against that is set the alarming drop in the number of juvenile cases – brought on by issues that can not all be blamed on COVID-19.
Still, there have been moves that will be useful for a future beyond COVID-19, not just in the circumstances we face now.
The use of Zoom calls for remote hearings may have been necessary to allow cases to proceed safely now – but why should they not remain in use in the future, which may be particularly useful for witnesses from Family Islands to be able to testify without the disruption of coming to New Providence.
The move to use more digital technology had already begun, and was long overdue. A digitised case management system is now in place, and audio transcripts can be accessed on the court’s website.
There have been other steps, such as the filing system for Industrial Tribunals being made entirely digital, a development dubbed a “Smart Court”.
We hope that measures that have made life easier during COVID-19 continue to be in place in the future – and built upon. The more easily accessible justice is, the more it serves the people of the nation.
Have there been problems the courts have faced during the pandemic? Without a doubt. But these measures show our future can take us forward.
Bring home the bacon for the Exuma pigs!
We would like to applaud the initiative to make sure that one of our country’s most popular attractions – the swimming pigs of Exuma – actually brings in some money to support the care of the pigs themselves.
Adding a $10 levy per tourist, or $5 for children, for trips to see the pigs is a simple, but effective solution. After all, many tourists are already paying substantial sums to go to see the pigs – and having a little extra to ensure the pigs remain in future, and in good health, is a sensible decision.
The government is fully behind the measure, and we hope this ensures a bright future for the pigs.
During the dip in tourism from the pandemic, we have featured in The Tribune stories that raised concerns over how well the pigs were being fed. Tourism may not be back in full force yet, but we welcome this extra step to keep one of our famous attractions well fed indeed.