The Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project is currently developing model guidelines for the handling of sexual offence cases and treatment of sexual offences, including children. In this regard, a consultant in the person of Ms. Diana Shaw has been engaged to conduct broad consultations with key stakeholders from the judiciary, police, social services, public prosecution, health, prison and non-governmental sectors with a view to developing comprehensive guidelines.
It is envisioned that through this process, guidelines that reflect stakeholders’ views will be developed and easily adopted by all countries in the region. The JURIST Project is therefore holding four regional consultations, the first being in Belize on Friday November 11, 2016 in collaboration with the judiciary of Belize. The Honourable Mr. Justice Kenneth Benjamin, Chief Justice of Belize and Dr. Penny Reedie, Director, the JURIST Project will officially open the consultations. Other consultations will follow in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
The guidelines form part of a comprehensive approach that seeks to address issues faced at the investigative, pre-trial and adjudicatory phases, as well as offenders’ rehabilitation and management. The proposed outcomes are as follows:
- Increased public confidence, including survivors and witnesses, in the justice system as it relates to the handling of sexual violence cases;
- Improved response to the survivor that will enable their full participation in the justice system, increase offender accountability and reduce secondary victimisation;
- Trained and skilled cadre of cross-sectional professionals including judges, court personnel, police and attorneys to efficiently handle sexual violence cases, survivors and witnesses;
- Establishment of a model specialised court with well trained and experienced personnel, and the necessary technology;
- Speedy adjudication of cases and reduced case backlogs over time; and
- Documented best practices and lessons learned to encourage and inform other countries in the region to adopt the guidelines and practices used by the justice system to respond to sexual assault cases.