THE PROCESSION as part of the start of the legal year yesterday. Photos: Terrel W Carey Sr/Tribune Staff
By FARRAH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
CHIEF Justice Brian Moree said the judiciary made significant strides in fulfilling its mandate to modernise and reform the court system, despite facing challenges brought on by COVID-19.
During his address at a ceremony to launch the 2021 legal year, Mr Moree said as a result of the pandemic, 2020 proved to be a “difficult and challenging year” that delayed the timeline for the implementation of several projects. He noted the “takeaway” message the judiciary got from last year is best captured in the adage “necessity is the mother of invention”.
“It is to state the obvious that our plans in 2020 for the courts were severely threatened by the pandemic,” he said. “But I can report that not only did our court system survive in 2020, we defied the (odds) by making significant progress in many areas as we remained laser focused on court reform and modernisation.”
Mr Moree said despite the setbacks, the judiciary experienced a “productive and busy year” as it continued to fulfill the constitutional mandate of advancing the “components of the court modernisation and reform initiative”.
“My plan for the court system in 2020 can be simply and succinctly expressed in three words: reform and modernisation. (So) as we move into a new year, we intend to consolidate our achievements in 2020 and advance the new components of the reform programme with focus, discipline and hardwork, in order to implement sustainable changes throughout the court system.”
Mr Moree said through their initiative, the courts were able to introduce an integrated case management system which will be the “backbone” of the new information and communication technology platform for the judiciary.
“Together with other customised subject matter applications in 2020, we completed the procurement process and signed the contract with the anchor group for the design and implementation of the ICMS… which is to be completed and installed within 12 months.”
Mr Moree said the contract was signed with the successful vendor of the procurement exercise in December last year and members of their team are already in Nassau to commence work.
“ZCOM will be responsible for digitising the court records (and) covering the last 30 years (of cases). The in-house digitisation unit will (then) deal with documents and records going forward,” he explained.
The chief justice said he was also pleased to report the automatic bail management system had been finalised after the initial pilot programme was launched late last year.
“Its utilisation by members of the Bar at the moment is minimal, but this will change as we move to its mandatory use by the end of February 2021. This will completely automate the process of bail applications.”
He added: “The court automated payment system is going to be introduced in the family court of the Magistrate’s Court which will automate the process of making payments and receiving payments pursuant to orders made in the Family Court.
“With the listing office, the entire process from start to end with regard to obtaining dates has now been automated. Lawyers no longer need to physically visit the listing office…now they can apply for dates using online forms.”
Mr Moree said starting in February, the judiciary will be focusing on the reduction of the backlog.
“This will involve the appointment of several acting justices for a period of time who will be given a portfolio of cases over a certain period of time which we define as backlog. It’ll probably start with a cutoff period of five years and the acting justices will be asked to case manage and complete those trials within a nine-month period,” he explained.
As it relates to the Court Services Bill, Mr Moree said he was pleased to report the bill had been tabled in the House of Assembly during the fourth quarter of last year.
“This bill is transformative and will deliver to the courts a higher level of financial administrative and operational autonomy over the affairs of the judiciary, while at the same time preserving the constitutional role of the minister of finance over the finances of the country.”