Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Bevil Wooding | In service of justice

Solving common challenges with Caribbean ingenuity and innovation

Published:Sunday | June 16, 2024 | 12:06 AM

Richard Wall, chief technology officer at the Caribbean Agency for Justice Solutions, addresses Caribbean Heads of Judiciary at a meeting in The Cayman Islands in 2022.
Richard Wall, chief technology officer at the Caribbean Agency for Justice Solutions, addresses Caribbean Heads of Judiciary at a meeting in The Cayman Islands in 2022.
Bevil Wooding
Bevil Wooding
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“When the sentence for a crime is not speedily executed, the hearts of men become fully set on doing evil.” King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

We want justice! A refrain as old as time that captures our innate yearning for fairness and equity. Across the Caribbean, the cry for better service and swifter justice from our courts, constabularies, and supporting institutions has been growing louder. For too many, access to justice is seen as complicated, costly, and inefficient, particularly for the most vulnerable in society.

The Caribbean justice system has become more complex and diverse. Many national judiciaries and justice institutions are struggling. Constraints such as limited funding, outdated facilities, and inadequate human resources hamper the delivery of timely justice. Meanwhile, shifting societal norms and technological innovations such as artificial intelligence challenge centuries-old traditions. Small states are particularly vulnerable, impeding the ability to meet growing demands for responsive, trustworthy, and accessible justice.

A modern justice sector requires people-centric, service-oriented courts where technology utilisation is imperative. Throughout the Caribbean, jurisdictions have been exploring new technology-enabled approaches to lower costs, improve services, engage stakeholders, and enhance efficiency.

This shift necessitates a digitally literate workforce comfortable with modern tools and processes. Leadership, strategic human resource development, and technology are also critical for agile and societally relevant judicial institutions.

Now is the time to reimagine our courts as service providers, delivering effective and timely justice to citizens as a fundamental right.

MODERNISATION OF JUSTICE

It is against this backdrop that The Caribbean Agency for Justice Solutions (CAJS) was formed nearly a decade ago by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in 2016. CAJS is the only regional agency working to develop solutions and approaches to catalyse modernisation of the Caribbean justice sector. Its mandate is to support national judiciaries and sector stakeholders in their efforts to more effectively deliver quality service to their target audiences.

CAJS tackles problems that have gone unaddressed or have been ineffectively addressed. We come alongside regional entities to identify the root causes of problems and provide targeted, culturally relevant solutions. The regional depth and strength of the CAJS team allows the agency’s work to extend beyond courts to support law enforcement agencies, legal-aid groups, judicial and legal education bodies, and public and private Bar associations throughout the Caribbean. We innovate and create, but more importantly, we help institutions to evolve and adapt.

A commitment to collaborative partnerships and to a “whole-of-sector” approach allows the agency to work across sectors and disciplines to ensure that solutions are based on the nuanced, multidimensional nature of justice delivery.

Such partnerships have allowed the CAJS to accelerate deployments and influence entire areas in our sector. This approach has also brought tangible results and global recognition to the agency and the jurisdictions it serves.

The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization, at recent event in London, UK, highlighted the technology innovations and accelerated implementation methodologies developed by the CAJS in the Caribbean as a model for other Commonwealth countries to follow.

The CAJS is tangible proof that an intimate understanding of societal challenges, shared values, and common aspirations is essential to the success of our collective efforts to modernise the delivery of justice. Yet, for all the varying advances we are making as a region, there is much yet to be done.

It is also a reminder that by embracing our common challenges with faith and courage, we can transform obstacles into opportunities for triumph. The evolution of our institutions reflects societal development, while stagnation signifies decline. The future of a more dynamic, collaborative, highly functional Caribbean justice sector draws us. And the present shines with the promise of what the region can achieve when it is dedicated to progressive development.

“We want justice!” This is the goal we share with all Caribbean citizens, and we believe justice is achievable when we work together.

Bevil Wooding is a development strategist and executive director of the Caribbean Agency for Justice Solutions. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.