Swift Justice comes to GB
FN News Editor
The recently relaunched Swift Justice initiative was given a virtual upgrade yesterday with the installation of a video conferencing system designed to speed up court matters and chip away at backlogged cases.
The link, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Allyson Maynard Gibson explained via a videoconference, is intended to improve the relationship between the police, Her Majesty's Prison, the Public Hospitals Authority, the Department of Rehabilitative Services and the Office of the Attorney General in the administration of justice.
"This historical event symbolizes a red letter day in the administration of justice," Maynard Gibson said from her New Providence Office Monday afternoon.
The videoconference was held between stakeholders in New Providence, Grand Bahama and New York.
While attention is being given in both the criminal and civil areas, the minister noted that a special focus is currently on the criminal side as, plans are on the drawing board to expand the use of video conferencing to the civil side in the short term.
The minister noted that the administration of justice in the 21st century requires greater use of technology to enhance the process and to ensure that justice is delivered in a fair, swift and efficient manner.
Since the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP)'s relaunch of its Swift Justice initiative on June 6, 2012, weekly meetings have been conducted among the representative stakeholders to ensure improved communication and effective implementation of plans and responsibilities.
Come Wednesday, those meetings will be expanded via videoconferences inclusive of the relevant agencies out of the Grand Bahama office.
Plans are also afoot to include Abaco, Eleuthera and Exuma in the expansion of the next phase.
The initiative, which is said to be at a cost of under $50,000, is anticipated to save the government millions and compliment the Integrated Justice System software which government is in the process of acquiring.
"This marks the first time in the history of The Bahamas that we now have a secured justice system network between sister agencies involved in the administration of justice," she said.
As a result, Maynard Gibson said, the virtual system will allow for bail applications, remand hearings, arraignments and criminal case management to be conducted by video link or videoconferences.
"This will substantially eliminate the traffic hazard too frequently caused by the transport of prisoners from Her Majesty's Prison to court," she said.
The minister further explained that on a daily basis only the persons who are required for court on that day will be transferred from prison to court.
All other activities will be conducted by video link from the court to the remand court at Her Majesty's Prison, she said.
Aside from the "tremendous savings" it will allow the government, Minister Maynard Gibson pointed out that other benefits to be derived from the videoconferencing approach are that the amount of money spent on travel, accommodation, transport and daily expenses for witnesses and experts local or abroad will also be reduced.
"The relevant stakeholders can now participate by video link between Nassau and Freeport or anywhere else in the world where there are videoconferences which assist and give real-time testimony by video link, whether they are inside or outside of The Bahamas," she said.
Other advantages of the video technology, the minister noted, is the fact that forensic evidence can also be viewed from the crime scene and labs, locally or abroad, for use in the courts.
Additionally, video link can be used for training and enable prosecutors and police to collaborate using I-pods, I-phones and other devices to link together from the investigative stage all the way through to the case preparation.
"Video link between the police and my office will allow the police witness and the experts to be interviewed and also give evidence by way of videoconferencing, again, nationally or internationally where there re some of the facilities available," she said.
There is also that ability for witnesses, including busy doctors with the Public Hospitals Authority from Sandilands and the Princess Margaret Hospital, to give evidence in the courts via video link.
It will also enable consultative sessions with experts and colleagues in other jurisdictions, as well as regular meetings, and allow the National Emergency Management Agency to communicate with all of the islands.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Damien Gomez pointed out that the implementation of the new system is a major step forward for The Bahamas and will create wonderful opportunities to present good, long-term 21st century jobs for young people.
As for improvements in Grand Bahama, while Gomez was limited in what he could reveal, he did say the island is poised for a new judicial building.
"We are pleased to announce that the Grand Bahama Port Authority has agreed with the government to the construction of a new Magistrates Courts complex," he said.
However, the size and location of that structure has yet to be worked out.
Maynard Gibson also noted that government is expected to make another "exciting" announcement for the nation's second city "within the next few weeks."
© 2012 The Freeport News