by Curlan Campbell
- Grenada’s court system officially joined the virtual platform in June 2021
- Court’s progress in 2021 indicate cases filed and resolved at Appellate level on par with data from pre-Covid-19
- Measures outlined to minimise risk of witness tampering
Citizens of Grenada and the OECS seeking swift dispensation of justice throughout the court’s jurisdiction, can now rest assured. The implementation of the E-Litigation Portal has moved into its second phase.
Chief Justice, Her Ladyship the Honourable Dame Janice M Pereira DBE, in her address to mark the Virtual Opening of the Law Year 2022 on Tuesday, 11 January 2022, proudly announced the region’s justice system has fully embraced technology in the administration of justice during the current global pandemic.
E-Litigation Portal is an integrated e-filing and case management web-based application that provides court users and all stakeholders with access to assigned services anytime, anywhere and on any device, including smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops.
As the theme “The ECSC: Re-imagining the Justice System in the Era of Covid-19 and Beyond” of the new law year, suggests, the Honourable Chief Justice used the opening of the new law year to reaffirm the court’s commitment to ensuring that digital platform remains a significant feature of the courts through the various territories remain long after the global pandemic.
Grenada’s court system officially joined the virtual platform in June 2021, followed by St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica in October, marking the integration of all member territories on the E-Litigation Portal.
The Honourable Chief Justice said as the E-Litigation Portal embarks on its second phase, there will be the addition of 2 more matters that can be used using the virtual portal. “This phase will see the expansion of the types of matters filed and managed in the portal to include high court family and criminal matters. I have no doubt that this expansion will be a much-welcomed development leading to speedier resolution of cases and greater cost saving to many more court users.”
Figures presented on the court’s progress in 2021 indicate that the court heard 351 appeals full court sitting and 437 matters in-chamber hearing. The court also delivered 66 written judgments and 258 oral judgments, totalling 324 cases resolved. These figures mean that the number of cases filed and resolved at the Appellate level was on par with data from pre-Covid-19.
The Honourable Chief Justice also announced plans to reimagine the justice system at the magistrate court level during the second phase of the expansion of the E-Litigation Portal. “To this end, rules are being drafted for e-filing and e-serving of complaints at the magistrate court level and to otherwise guide the use of the portal in a manner best suited to the summary nature of the magistracy. We are also making provision for the conduct of remote hearing for magisterial matters which in the member state of Grenada, and the territory of Anguilla require immediate legislative amendment for this to be possible. This simply means that those member states and territories which do not yet have video links established in their magistrate court are encouraged to be quick in putting these in place.”
While there were many successes achieved through the use of the portal, The Honourable Chief Justice pointed to concerns raised by members of the bar regarding the integrity of oral evidence from the witness in remote locations outside of the courtroom setting. “It is critical that measures be put in place to ensure the integrity of evidence given remotely to minimise witness coaching or other forms of witness tampering. The duty lies on the judicial officer as part of their case management powers to be satisfied that the directions are given for the conduct of remote hearings including the location from which a witness can give evidence, satisfactory address these and other concerns which may impact the quality of evidence.”
One of the measures outlined to minimise the risk of witness tampering is to designate rooms in the High Court where the witness can suitably give evidence and with respect of witness oversees, by identifying a suitable designated neutral venue for the taking of evidence.