[KINGSTON: 24 July 2019]: Practitioners in social work, prosecution, law enforcement and court administration are getting ready to join forces to advance witness care in Jamaica following their participation in Jamaica's first Witness Care Conference.
Conference organizers say Government partners, with the support of the Global Affairs Canada-funded Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) programme, intend to advance a holistic, practitioner-led strategy designed to build upon current initiatives and successes, while introducing new innovations.
While assessing current gaps such as the ‘informer fi dead’ culture, non-attendance and wrong expectations, participants also learned of new witness care initiatives underway in Jamaica, including: the installation of video-link technology in select courts to accommodate witnesses who cannot attend court physically; use of Mobile Units to record the testimony of witnesses remotely; training of police officers; and the establishment of a Witness Care Unit by the DPP.
The conference’s multi-sector planning committee is banking on the main conference output, a knowledge product containing solutions and strategies for the care, protection and welfare of witnesses, to help guide collective action going forward.
Canadian High Commissioner, Her Excellency Laurie Peters in underlining the need for post conference action said “without attention to witness care, the levels of public participation in the delivery of justice can easily be compromised. If users’ have a limited understanding of justice processes, or feel intimidated by them, this may result in their unwillingness to engage.
“Improving people’s legal awareness and empowering them to peacefully resolve disputes or use the law for advocacy to improve their lives and communities, can lead to legal reform and the reform of justice institutions to improve accountability and responsiveness to the people of Jamaica,” she stated.
UNDP Resident Representative Denise E Antonio lauded the holistic method employed by the inaugural conference, noting that it represented a trailblazing approach to witness care, protection and welfare. She expressed optimism that the mix of experience and expertise and the sharing of innovative ideas, knowledge, lessons learnt and best practices have produced solutions that would strengthen the participation of witnesses. She noted that witnesses are an integral part of the court system and should be able to exercise their full participation in civil and criminal matters as this was fundamental to the successful conclusion of cases.
The Witness Care Conference was an initiative of the JUST programme which is implemented by the Ministry of Justice and the UNDP. Its solutions and strategies are focused on the thematic areas of: Enabling Environment for Witness Safety & Security: Logistics, Resources & Policy Support; Designing Multi-Agency Customer Care Systems; Psycho-Social Interventions & Services to Witnesses; Children & Especially Vulnerable Witnesses.
CONTACT: Andrew Canon, Public Education Specialist, Ministry of Justice, 61 Constant Spring Rd, Kingston 10; TEL & WHATSAPP: 876 458 0747; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
CONTACT: Gillian Scott, Communications Analyst, UNDP. Tel: 876 978 2390 – 9 Ext 2032; TEL & WHATSAPP: 876 509 0724