Video bail hearings this week
Bail hearings via video conferencing will start at the courts in the Cane Garden Municipal Complex, St Thomas when they open this week.
This initiative, along with a streamlining of the services provided by the Registration Department, especially in relation to birth certificates, will be done to better serve the public.
Registrar of the Supreme Court Barbara Cooke-Alleyne QC revealed this Saturday as she responded to concerns by the Barbados Bar Association over the partial closure of the Supreme Court since April 11 because of environmental challenges.
She said the portable video conferencing system would be employed immediately so that accused can have their matters heard from Dodds Prisons without the inconvenience and potential security risks of transporting them to Cane Garden. The same system can also be used for any matters in which the Caribbean Court of Justice is involved. And in mid-July when the Manor Lodge Complex in Green Hill, St Michael opens, this system will also be available for use in the civil court.
Cooke-Alleyne also disclosed that within months the High Court registry will have a high end case management system while the Records Department will have an electronic system allowing for filing applications for certificates by email. The latter acquirements will assist with the court’s business continuity plan in case any disaster befalls the department.
She further revealed that they have started to acquire electronic equipment to network the Magistrates’ Courts in respect of case management. It is part of the IT plan to computerise the Court Process office as well.
“The Attorney General, Chief Justice and I are committed to improving the administration of justice. The AG mentioned on Friday (while touring the Cane Garden Complex) three additional judges to assist with the backlog of cases, while the Chief Justice spoke about the wider use of mediation.”
There are more than 900 pending criminal cases and even more outstanding civil matters, some dating back to the early 1990s.
Cooke-Alleyne assured the public and attorneys the Court would be doing its utmost to expedite urgent matters, and urged those with such transactions to walk with all their documentation.
Bar President Liesel Weekes last Thursday likened the delays and challenges in the court system a “national crisis”. She said the suspension of court operations adversely affects the public’s right of access to justice through the inability to get matters litigated.
The president was particularly concerned about the failure to get birth certificates as this could affect people’s ability to secure a passport, enroll in an educational institution or travel for emergency medical treatment or some other important matter.
Cooke-Alleyne said she understood attorneys’ concerns, that’s why since the start of the situation, certain areas at the complex remained functioning, albeit on reduced hours.
She said 60 to 70 people are seen daily in the four-and-a-half hours the department is opened as against about 100 during normal hours, though only 12 people out of 20 are working in that Records Department.
“We’re trying to balance the health of the staff with the needs of the public. In Records most of them chose to stay in the department . . . because we recognise how important it is. But you can’t pack up to relocate and serve the public at the same time. It is not practical. We had to reduce services tremendously to get that done. We had to clean the records first before we could go anywhere else. That in itself was a process. You had to start pulling the records. I think that was where the issue was. The inconvenience caused to the public is regretted,” said Cooke-Alleyne.
She added: “In respect of the Bar, urgent applications for court hearings are still being done. For example, the Commonwealth citizens case for the General Election that allowed them to vote.” (SP)