The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Thursday May 7, 2020 convened a meeting of key personnel in judiciaries, prosecutorial services, state agencies and bar associations throughout the Caribbean in an effort to assess challenges and needs arising from the new paradigm produced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Co-sponsoring the meeting were the Canadian-funded Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project, the CCJ Academy for Law (CAL) and the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers (CAJO). The virtual meeting was attended by more than 100 participants across 22 countries and was hailed as a success by attendees. Many of the participants expressed a desire for follow-up regional collaborations.
President of the CCJ, the Honourable Mr. Justice Adrian Saunders, opened the meeting by welcoming the gathering that included seven regional Heads of Judiciary, six Directors of Public Prosecutions and several court registrars, Bar Association Presidents and other legal and technical professionals.
The conference was co-facilitated by the CCJ President and Mr. Peter Bracegirdle, Monitoring and Reporting Adviser of the JURIST Project. A significant role in organising the event was also played by APEX, a non-profit agency established by the CCJ in 2017 to provide technology-enabled solutions and training to improve the region’s justice delivery sector.
In the first session, the attendees engaged in a discussion of the challenges faced in their jurisdictions by judicial officers, court staff, attorneys, and other court users. Issues discussed included health challenges, particularly of court staff but also of court users who are not able to conduct their affairs remotely, either owing to the nature of the services required or the absence or unavailability of desired technology.
The gathering noted the challenges in ensuring a) efficient, accessible, and effective justice for all court customers; and b) the health and safety of all who work in and use the services provided by the justice sector.
The latter two sessions focused on solutions that have been implemented in various jurisdictions and the lessons learned from these, as well as the needs that have become apparent in addressing the uncertainty that lies ahead.
Participants benefited from hearing measures that have been implemented in other jurisdictions, such as those enabling the conduct of trials in Magistrates’ or Parish courts.
The meeting served as a significant first step in combining ideas and efforts across the Caribbean to meet the needs of those working in the justice sector and those seeking to avail themselves of its services.
Going forward, the CCJ intends to continue working with its partners and the stakeholders in each of these jurisdictions to ensure that we are all stronger and better positioned to serve our constituents, even when COVID-19 is in our rear view.