Chief Justice strengthens call for digitisation of court systems to improve efficiency
MANDEVILLE, MANCHESTER :
Corruption and inefficiencies will continue to thwart the efforts of the court systems, if investments are not made to digitise their functions through an established integrated software management system, says Chief Justice Bryan Sykes.
Speaking at a commissioning ceremony for justices of the peace at Church Teachers’ College in Mandeville, Manchester on Thursday, Sykes said that as other arms of the legal system seek to increase productivity using technology, the courts should not be left behind.
“Looking back a few weeks ago at the amnesty we had for traffic tickets … What we had there was a demonstration of why the courts must digitise. The citizens turned up [to court] to a paper system … Persons would stand outside for hours on end, to go inside and be told that they may have to come back in the next eight weeks because the [court officer] would have to take the information, go to the storage area, search for these tickets, retrieve them, get a court sheet and write them out ... .”
With staff trained and repurposed to operate these management systems, Sykes said it would not only save time, but prevent loss and reduce the likelihood of corruption.
“I don’t think Jamaicans are inherently more corrupt than anyone else. In all societies you have two levels of corruption. You have the hardcore … and you have the corruption that is efficiency-based. Whenever you have undue delays arising from inefficiency, people opt to do what is necessary to get the service … .”
He said some of these corrupt practices include the payment for expedited service or ease of business through favouritism and or nepotism.
“What inefficiency does is begin to tempt honest citizens to think of inappropriate ways of getting the services that they need expedited … Our systems don’t work in the way they ought to for the ordinary citizens … One of my goals is to make the courts efficient. You don’t have to know anybody to get business done …”
The chief justice also called on the Ministry of Justice to consider the development of a mobile app that will assist justices of the peace with recording and storing data. It would also reduce errors in recollecting information especially concerning lock-up visits, suspect examination among other things, months or years later.
Sykes earlier commended the performance of the Manchester parish courts, citing the significant clearance of criminal case backlog despite productivity issues in courts across the island.
“In the parish of Manchester we are now, on the criminal side, with a net backlog of under two per cent of criminal cases … [It is significant because] according to our statistician the global standard on average is under five per cent. So any criminal court that has a net backlog with active cases under five per cent is considered to be doing excellently.”
He said the parish could also see a zero-per-cent clear-up soon with Manchester having a 121.5-per-cent clearance rate.
While the Court of Appeal has a clearance rate of 112 per cent, Sykes said the Supreme Court continues to experience delays despite an improvement last year of 78 per cent clearance.
He commended the Manchester Family Court for setting a precedence as one of few courts at the parish court level with specific slots within specific dates being set for people with matters before the court.
“This is modelling where we want to go in our next strategic planning cycle. Our first strategic planning cycle comes to an end in December of this year, where for the first time in our history our judiciary had a strategic plan.”