The St Ann Parish Court on Thursday, September 15, hosted a national education symposium at the St Ann’s Bay courthouse.
The symposium was geared towards educating and informing the public about the process and procedures of the courts as well as efforts to modernize the courts, through new legislation and reforms including the committal proceedings act (CPA) and restorative justice.
According to senior parish judge of St Ann, Andrea Thomas, who chaired the opening ceremony, one of the purposes of the symposium was “to make justice accessible to rest of the country.” In doing this she said that the court will be reintroduced as an institution that is part of the community.
She highlighted the several agencies present at the symposium that distributed public education material and provide critical answers to members of the public.
These stakeholders and exhibitors included: the Dispute Resolution Foundation; Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR); Office of the Public Defender; St Ann police division; Probation and Correctional Services; Registrar General’s Department (RGD); Transport Authority; Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM); Administrator General’s Department; Court Management Services; Victim Services Division; Documentation Unit; Legal Aid Council and Restorative Justice.
Minister of justice, Delroy Chuck, in his greetings to the audience of students from educational institutions such as Marcus Garvey Technical High and Moneague College, and several members of the public, has hinted that a new courthouse is in the pipeline for the parish of St Ann.
Chuck explained that on visiting the court house, he saw that there was a need for a new building in the parish.
The news was met with applauses from members of staff from the courthouse. The media, leading residents in St Ann and court personnel have long called for new court facilities.
Mr Chuck hailed the staging of the symposium and said that “it demonstrates that the judges want to play a role with the citizens.” He further reassured the gathering that the Ministry of Justice was determined to deliver justice in a timely manner.
Chief Justice Zalia McCalla also addressed the event. (See related story page???)
The staging of the function was also hailed by custos of St Ann, Norma Walters in her greetings.
Several members of the public viewed the several booths located on the court property.
For Moneague College criminal justice student, Jahrenna-Kay Lowe, she found the symposium to be very beneficial.
“I like it… it is very informative because this is the field I want to go in,” she explained, while adding that she intends to join the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
Dennis Higgins, president of the St Ann’s Bay Citizen’s Association and St Ann Heritage Foundation said that: “I feel good about it (the symposium). I had some long standing problems and I was able to get good information.”
Marjorie Small, a resident of Philadelphia in St Ann, explained that she made the long journey to seek the information. “I had to journey here, because mi a one a dem way always say di court system too hard, but I learn about mediation and how you can sit down and talk about your issues with the person who do you something. Yea it good,” she explained.
Marvel Taylor of the Legal Aid Council, one of the exhibitors present, explained that persons were very receptive of the information as several did not know of the services being offered by the council.
The Legal Aid Council provides legal representation to accused persons, who may need attorneys for identification parade purposes, question and answer sessions and trials for criminal cases, except fraud and drug related cases.
St Ann hosted the third national public education symposium to be held. The Portland Parish Court will host the next symposium on October 25.