by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- IMPACT Justice Project consultation underway at the Radisson Beach Resort.
- OECS members states legal practitioners discuss draft harmonised model criminal code.
Improved Access to Justice (IMPACT) in the Caribbean consultation is underway at the Radisson Beach Resort from 5 February 2018. Legal practitioners from across the OECS members states have gathered in Grenada to discuss the draft harmonised model criminal code and consideration of bail, evidence, and jury legislation.
The two-day consultation is part of several components of the IMPACT Justice Project funded by the Canadian Government in association with the Judicial Education Institute of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.
Attendees include Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Hon. Dame Janice M Pereira, judges, magistrates, the directors of public prosecution and criminal defence lawyers from the 9-member OECS.
Dame Janice said the draft harmonised model criminal code is a starting point for the region that is long overdue. “We have touched on topics that are not included in the draft we started with. It’s simply a draft and is just a starting point from which we can engage in these discussions to see basically what we can take going forward in terms of uniformity which will have some universality across the region. We have looked at definitions and how that intersects with other laws. For example, in dealing with juveniles and the age for criminal responsibility and the whole concept of mental capacity; and we are looking at the ages for example in terms of how one views minors, and different categories for different offences. So, the purpose of this exercise is really to see how well we can bring a consistent and harmonised approach.”
Dame Janice indicated the region must stay abreast with changes and this must be reflected in laws governing each member territory. “We tend to think sometimes that law is a fixed concept and it is not. It should be meet the needs of society as more modern societies and technologies come about, and we have to take those things into account, looking at how laws are to be applied. What we are taught to be offences, for example in terms of theft of data and how that is to be accomplished; intangible things such as intellectual property and whether these are things are capable of being stolen, so as we see the challenges arising, clearly society itself expresses interest in ensuring that these things are addressed.”
Regional Project Director of the IMPACT Justice Project, Professor Velma Newton said although there is little control over whether member states implement the draft legislation, it is a step in the right direction. “Our view is that if we leave good models behind after the project is finished, at some point all or some of the principles in the legislation will be taken up by member states.”
Objectives to be achieved include the following:
- Draft legislation needed to further the objectives of the CSME and the OECS Economic Union and to assist the CARICOM Member States in implementing their legislative agendas;
- Train legal drafters to increase the pool available in the region;
- Improve the accountability frameworks for the legal profession such as codes of ethics and disciplinary and accounting procedures;
- Establish a framework for continuing professional education for members of the legal profession;
- Conduct a survey of legal education in the region to provide governments with information which can be used to shape policy;
- Upgrade and expand legal information databases such as CariLaw, the West Indies Legislative Indexing Project (WILIP) Online, and the Caribbean Law Review Online to make the law of the region more accessible to legal researchers and others;
- Increase knowledge and use by citizens of ADR mechanisms, including mediation for settling disputes in a timely and cost-effective manner. (ADR mechanisms have long been used to increase access to justice by reducing the backlog of cases already before the courts and stemming the flow of new cases).